I was bloody exhausted. Nine days in a row of 13-hour night
shifts, but now I had a glorious thirty-five hours off. I was torn between
wanting to sleep for most of it and wanting to take some time to do something
I’d had a patient in critical condition and had been kept a
full two hours late, meaning to my great disappointment that I’d missed my
usual breakfast with Jamie. Over the last month it had become part of my almost
daily routine. I loved Jamie’s company. He was always interested in my stories
from the hospital (as Frank never was), and gave me space to decompress. He was
funny, kind and intelligent. Jamie was a wonderful friend and after only a
month I didn’t know what I’d do without him.
By habit, I walked down the street that housed both our
usual café and Fraser’s Books on my way home. Despite how tired as I was, I
decided to pop into the bookshop to say hi before heading to Frank’s house to
I loved the smell of old books and tea that always lingered
in Jamie’s shop. It always put me at ease. Neither Jamie nor Murtagh were at
the front counter, so I quietly strolled between the shelves. There were no other
customers in the shop. Peeking into the back room, I saw Jamie at the small
antique desk. He was pouring over what seemed to be an order or ledger book and
sliding down the bridge of his nose…
My mouth moving before my tired brain could catch up, I
found myself greeting him by saying “Very geek-chic.” To my amusement, Jamie
jumped slightly and scrambled to whip the glasses off his face as quickly as
possible, the tips of his ears turning red.
“Sassenach!” He looked up at me, clearly embarrassed. I couldn’t
fathom why – the rectangular glasses were rather becoming on him.
He smiled sheepishly and stood, coming around the desk
towards me. “I missed you at breakfast. Long shift?”
“Very long. But it’s over.
And I get an entire thirty-five hours off.”
“Well that’s verra exciting, indeed.” He smiled impishly. “What
are you doing to celebrate?”
“Sleeping. Then not much of anything, really. Frank’s got a
His eyes seemed to harden for a moment at the mention of
Frank, as they often did. I couldn’t really blame him – Frank had been so rude
to Jamie the only time the two men had met.
“Weel, that won’t do, lass. When’s the last time you’ve had
some proper fun?”
“Hmm… before medical school, probably. So about twenty years
ago,” I joked.
He chuckled a bit then said, “The lads and I are heading
down to the pub tonight. Ye could join us, if ye like.”
“Are you sure? I wouldn’t want to intrude.”
“Don’t be daft, lass. If I didna want ye there, I wouldn’t
have invited ye.”
It did sound like more fun then I’d had in a good while. “Alright.
“O’ course, Sassenach.” He smiled as I yawned into the
sleeve of the coat I wore over my scrubs. “Go sleep for a bit and meet me back
here at seven.”
I nodded and he walked me towards to shop door. “Have a good
“Have a good sleep, lass. I’ll
see ye tonight.”
Jamie came out of the back room where he’d been stowing cash
from the day in the safe just as Claire came back into his shop. He stood
frozen for a moment, stunned. Claire was always radiantly beautiful. Always. But since the third time they
met, she was always in her scrubs after a long shift. Now she stood by the door
illuminated by the setting sun. She was both angel and seductress in tight
jeans and a black pea coat. Christ.
She smiled and he melted. “How was your day?”
He cleared his throat. “Fine enough, thank ye. Did ye sleep?”
“I just about passed out the moment I got to Frank’s.”
To Frank’s. It was
like a punch to the gut every time he was mentioned. Damn lucky, ungrateful bastard.
They found themselves sitting side by side on the shop’s front
counter chatting about his day and her shift the night before. Ian was due to
arrive any minute, and the three of them would walk to the pub together. He was
a bit nervous for Ian and Claire to meet – he’d spent much of the past month
lamenting to Ian about The Claire
Situation, as Ian and Jenny called it. At twenty-past, Ian came into the
shop still clad in his Edinburgh Fire
Department t-shirt. He took one look at Jamie and Claire sitting on the
counter and a slow smile spread across his face, catching Jamie’s eye over
Claire’s head before she turned to look at him. Claire’s back now to Jamie, he
subtly shook his head at his brother-in-law to be.
Both hopping down from the counter, Jamie introduced the
pair. “Claire, this is my sister’s fiancé, Ian Murray. Ian, Claire Beauchamp.”
“It’s nice to meet ye, Claire. I’ve
heard so much about ye.” Jamie was going to kill him.
Jamie, Ian and Claire walked into the boisterous bar
chatting animatedly. Jamie had quickly decided against killing the man, as he’d
spent the entire walk talking him up to Claire.
“So he tied them to the kitchen table and stood over the
quaking lumps until the police showed up and carted them off.“
Jamie’s cheeks warmed at Claire’s praise. Maybe he should buy Ian a drink.
They were the last to arrive – Murtagh, Angus and Rupert
were already at their usual table. Ian walked ahead, followed by Claire. Jamie
took up the rear – a position he was very thankful for and regretted
immediately. As they walked further into the pub, Claire took off her coat
giving Jamie an unimpeded view of the bonniest round arse encased in sinfully
tight jeans he’d ever seen. Jesus Christ.
She’d be the death of him.
So distracted, he nearly collided with her when she stopped
by the table. She greeted Murtagh warmly, who raised his whiskey towards her in
greeting. Ian circled the table to sit next to Angus, ensuring that Jamie and
Claire would be next to each other. Jamie’s hand twitched to pull out her seat,
but she beat him too it, sitting down across from Ian. Jamie took the last seat
between Murtagh and Claire before introducing her to Rupert and Angus. Angus
eyed her appreciatively, much to Jamie’s chagrin, before handing her the drink
“The girly drinks are in the back.” Claire looked at Angus,
eyebrow raised at his condescending tone.
“Thanks.” She flipped to a page near the front. Jamie looked
over her shoulder and saw that she was looking at whiskeys.
He flagged down a waitress as Claire closed the menu. When
she ordered, Ian and Angus kicked him under the table simultaneously, their
eyebrows raised. Why God saw fit to introduce him to his perfect woman after she
had fallen for another man, he’d never know. He looked at the waitress and ordered
the same as Claire – Laphroaig Quarter Cask on the rocks.
Jamie turned back to Claire as the waitress went to fetch
their drinks. “I didna ken you were a fan of Laphroaig.”
Claire smiled at him. “It’s my favourite.”
He couldn’t believe it. “Mine, too.”
Ian caught his eye again from across the table before
addressing Claire. “So. Claire. You’re a Doctor, then?”
“Yes, I am. I’m doing my residency right now.”
Angus leaned towards her, “Ye can doctor me anytime ye
like, lass. I’ve got a problem tha’ might be needin’ yer tendin’.”
Jamie was about to interject, to tell Angus to shut his gob,
but it wasn’t necessary. Before he could open his mouth, Claire volleyed back, “I’d
love to help, but I haven’t got a microscope powerful enough to see the
Silence… For about half a second.
And then the table, Angus included, burst into uproarious laughter.
Jamie threw an arm around Claire’s
shoulder, “You’re a witty one.” Looking around the table, Jamie could see that
the men had started to accept Claire into the fold.
Hours had passed, and Jamie was having the time of his life
drinking and laughing with his closest friends and the woman he loved, when
their joy was abruptly cut short with the ringing of Claire’s cell phone.
“Hello? … I’m out with some friends. I…” Even over the din
of the bar, Jamie could hear muffled shouting through the phone line. “Frank,
stop… I … Okay… okay.” The table went
quiet, Claire’s anxiety apparent even to Rupert and Angus. “I’m heading there
now…. No, I don’t need you to come get me… I’m not drunk…. I… Okay. I’ll see
you soon…. Yes. Bye.” Claire hung up the phone and the table remained still.
She closed her eyes for a moment, upset and embarrassed. Jamie gently put a
hand on her shoulder. She took a deep breath before looking around the table, a
forced smile plastered on her face. “I’m sorry, but I’ve got to run. It was
lovely meeting you.”
Everyone said somewhat subdued but heartfelt goodbyes and
see-you-soons, and Jamie passed Claire her coat before telling the table
that he’d see her into a taxi and be back. Jamie and Claire walked out of the
bar together and stood on the street, looking out for a taxi to hail.
Claire was quiet.
Jamie pulled her into a gentle hug and closed his eyes as
she settled herself comfortably under his chin.
She let out a deep sigh. “He got home from his function and
was upset I wasn’t there.”
“So, what, he expects ye to just be waitin’ around for him?
Waiting at his beck and call for him to get home when he pleases?” His tone had
a sharpness to it he’d never had with her before. But he knew she’d know his
frustration wasn’t with her.
“Well… I mean, I understand. I work long hours—”
“Aye. Ye do. And so ye deserve to do whatever ye damn well
please when you’ve got some time to yourself.”
Jamie was reluctant to send her back to Randall. He didn’t know
the man. Part of him feared – but no. Claire would never stay with a man who… no.
But even so… “Claire?” He tightened his arms around her.
“Will ye promise me something?”
He pulled back enough to look into her beautiful,
whiskey-coloured eyes. “Promise me that… that if Frank ever.” He stopped, took
a breath and started again. “Promise me that if anyone ever hurts ye, you’ll
“Oh, Jamie, no. Frank would never. He has a bit of a temper,
sure, but he’d never do that.”
“I’m sure you’re right. I’m sure he wouldn’t. But even so, I’d
“Okay. I promise.”
They stood for another few minutes before managing to flag down a taxi. He saw her safely in and watched the taxi drive away, his heart heavy, before turning to go back into the pub.