Brahms echoed furiously through the open
doors as the orchestra launched itself in a rendition of Hungarian Dance. It started like a riot, a crescendo of frenetic
instruments, that made his blood swirl faster inside his veins, eager to jump
and dance in the chambers of his heart.
adjusted his formal black tailcoats and checked his red hair – tamed by several
minutes of strenuous work with brilliantine pomade. He wasn’t that used to it,
usually allowing his hair to flow loose and tousled, hidden under his homburg
hat when he went out for his daily chores. But the occasion demanded his very
best evening attire, like a proper Edwardian gentleman, and Jamie was fairly
confident he was looking dapper.
It was a birthday celebration for the daughter
of the house, a wealthy heir of lands and titles in Oxfordshire – probably
spoilt and coquettish, fishing for a suitable match since her debutante ball at the mercy of the
Jamie had been travelling home to Scotland,
coming from a season of profitable connections in Paris, when one his best
friends, Lord John Grey – a nobleman himself from the finest breed – had asked
him to spend a short amount of time at his country house, in order to help him
with some complex business arrangement. He had later insisted that Jamie must
accompany him to the function, dangling in front of his eyes the chance of
introducing his whiskey to a couple of eager – and well-lined – pockets.
After the debauchery he had witnessed in the Parisian
cabarets, he wasn’t looking too
forward to spending another night drinking, swallowing cigars and pretending to
be interested in shallow conversations conducted by batting eyelashes or men
comparing cock lengths.
What he craved was the simplicity of the moors and lochs of the home of his heart, the painting of clouds and mist
from his bedroom window – even if for a short period of time. Soon enough, he
was meant to make the voyage across the great sea to New York, where he would
make the acquaintance of some of the wealthiest railway tycoons, caskets
rolling from Fraser’s distillery into prospering America.
Shrugging to ease off some tension, Jamie managed
to summon a pleasant smile and entered the house. It was a riveting crowd – men
gathered together in corners like wolfpacks, evaluating their prey; woman
sipped from champagne flutes, tasting beverage and gossip alike; the orchestra
played along dutifully, decided to give a concert even without listeners.
Jamie greeted a couple of acquaintances,
briefly commenting on the excellent turnout of the evening and enchantments of
the Beauchamp estate, and accepted a glass of rich Portuguese port offered by a
After a laboured hour of confraternization, with
a brief passage through the baccarat
table and multiple polite – or so he hoped – rejections of languid invitations
to dance, Jamie was wondering if it would be the supreme abruptness to leave
while the party was still at its prime.
Looking around to try to locate John – perched near
the piano player, hypnotized in conversation with his friend Hector – Jamie noticed her.
She was standing by the most secluded window,
almost hidden by the heavy drapes of the red curtains, only noticeable because
of the beckoning colour of her dress – a deep teal, that reminded him of
Scottish skies in the summertime, right before the hour of falling stars. She
had her back slightly turned, so he could only see her outline.
Her rich brown hair was styled in an elegant
and simple knot, with solitary pearls scattered amongst her trapped locks, like
drops of sea commanded by Poseidon to the most beautiful mermaid. Unlike other
women – wearing flowers or jewelled pins and combs - she had used a hair accessory that looked
like a wee dagger to keep her hair in place – it reminded him so much of a sgian dhu that Jamie almost gasped. She
had a pair of simple silver earrings and no other jewellery that he could see.
Jamie moved discreetly, trying to approach her
without being noticed. She was looking outside – her hands covered by satin
black opera gloves, bracing the marble of the windowsill -, her lips pursed in
seriousness, her eyes lost in contemplation of unseen things.
“Ye look bored out of yer mind.” He said in a
conversational tone, before he could stop himself. She startled and looked
around annoyed, noticing him – her eyes were the most astonishing shade of
amber. “Sorry to disturb ye, Madam.”
“That’s alright.” She surveyed him, head to
toe, taking him in. “You’re not from around here, are you?”
“Scotland.” Jamie confirmed, smiling. “My
estate – Lallybroch - is near a village much smaller than the backyard of this
“It is an insufferably big house.” She
shrugged. “You could easily get lost inside it.”
“Ah.” Jamie grinned, standing closer to her and
peeking through the window to the obscured garden. “Do ye think that’s what
happened to the fair lady being honoured tonight? People are commenting on her
The woman snorted, her lips quivering in
“I’m sure she’ll appear when she wants to.” She
admonished. “I hear she has a wicked temper and rude manners. Not suitable to
the title of Lady Beauchamp at all.”
“Hm.” Jamie offered her an appreciative gaze.
“At least I’d be most entertained. And maybe ye wouldna look so wistful.” He
“You do realize I am Lady Claire Beauchamp, don’t you?” She asked, her eyes
suddenly downcast, her lips contorting on a wry smile.
Jamie nodded, leaning against the wall next to the window. “I was guessing that
was the reason why ye were hidden here.” And then he whispered in a
conspiratorial tone. “I’d be too, if I were ye.”
Claire gave him a significant look, raising her
brows in a display of stupefaction.
“You look more like the type that should be
spending the night next to the gaming table, plotting with the other men about
the great determinations of Britain and choosing their next young lover.” She
“I was invited to leave the baccarat table, I’m afraid.” He smiled, tilting his head in fake mourning.
“That bad of a player?” She crossed her arms in
a very unladylike position, which made the corners of his mouth almost twitch
in supressed amusement.
“Actually,” He confided with a grimace. “I
think they were tired of me emptying their pockets. I’m verra good at cards –
“So you are a gambler.” Claire gave him a
lopsided smile, looking mildly interested. “And how did you find yourself here,
“Fraser. James Fraser” He slightly bowed down
his head and kissed the back of her hand, feeling her warmth even underneath
the satiny fabric. “Enchanté,
“French.” She commented, looking away to hide
her face as a couple passed near them, giggling in search of a vacant room
where to express their burning affections. “Do you have ties to France?”
“Very ancient connections.” Jamie admitted,
noticing how the candlelight enhanced the honey inside her eyes, the fair skin
of her neck turned almost golden. “I just arrived from Paris – made a small
detour on my way to Scotland. I have to be in Southampton soon enough, though.
I have a passage booked on the RMS
Titanic, bound to New York. I hear it’s a verra bonnie ship – a wee beast
of the seas.”
“Oh.” She said, sounding strangely
disappointed. “I see.”
They stood in silence for a while, their
previous conversation interrupted by the announcement of his impending
departure. The rooms were filled with the sounds of people gathering to dance a
classic gavotte, as the orchestra
played on without signs of wavering, flooding the senses as the bodies pulsed
with the spirits of alcohol and elation.
“I think I’ll get some air.” Claire finally
said, tilting her chin. Her eyes were serious and hardened like crystalized amber.
“It was lovely to meet you, Mister Fraser. Excuse me.”
Jamie nodded in retribution, bewildered, as
Claire quickly escaped through a nearby open door. He leaned over the window,
his eyesight adapting to the surrounding darkness, as he followed her
silhouette with his eyes.
She walked with the familiar security of
someone who knew the grounds well – a dog, honey coloured like her own eyes,
ran from somewhere outside the house and barked to greet her. Claire
immediately bent down to salute him, patting his flank with a gentle and caring
hand. Her body moved with an easy grace, the promise of her flesh immediate and
taunting like a whisper against the back of his neck, disarming him most
irrevocably. She was an unusual woman, very different from the image he had
created of the lady ruling the understairs servants with an iron fist. Nothing
about her was what it should have been - and he had been enthralled with that
realization the moment their eyes met.
There was a sadness about her – a peculiarity,
like a book misplaced in the wrong shelf, and for that reason condemned not to
be discovered. He knew nothing about what pleased her and made her laugh, but
was sure it wasn’t the sycophants surrounding them or their many pompous
He watched as she opened the metallic gate,
headed to what seemed like a private garden, and without dwelling on it any
longer, decided to follow her.
The air outside smelt of lilacs and roses, with
a hint of rain to come. He rapidly approached the gate and saw her, sitting in
a granite bench amongst a myriad of herbs and flowers.
In that moment, in her teal dress, she was all
the lights in Paris gathered together; all the things the old masters had tried
to paint, demonstrating beauty – she was the earth underneath his feet and the
sky above his head, expanding away from him, limitless.
“You’re trespassing private property.” She
announced in a soft voice, declaring her knowledge of his whereabouts.
“I’m a Scot.” Jamie smiled. “We are firm
believers in the right of way.”
“I thought you had to be going somewhere to
call that.” Claire gave him a slightly smug smile, noticing his surprise.
“Who says I’m not?” He said in a hoarse voice,
their eyes locking. Thankfully, the coming clouds still left the moon untouched
– he could see her, her outline like a dream half-remembered, and sense the
light shivers of her skin, exposed to the night’s breeze and to his unnerving
presence. “Do ye want to dance? It’s yer birthday after all – seems unfair ye
dinna even dance.”
“Dance?” She raised her brows, her eyes
glowing. “We don’t have music.”
“Aye.” Jamie brushed his clean shaven chin with
his fingers, in a pretence of deep thought. “We dinna have an orchestra here in
the garden or a gramophone – amazing wee things, those – but I’d dance with ye
She gave him an undecided look, stalling by
brushing her skirt for inexistent leaves.
“In Paris I saw this dance – different from
everything, really, brought on by Argentinians – it’s called tango.” Jamie licked his lips and
offered her his hand. “I’ll show ye.”
Claire slowly took off her black gloves and
reached out to touch his hand with hers – their fingers coming together with a
disconcerting ease. Always looking into her eyes, steadying and reassuring her,
Jamie brought their bodies to full contact and guided them in a few steps of
the exotic dance, which soon would become the art of lovers, the rhythm of
passion capable of shocking every matron and hostess.
“This is interesting.”
Claire almost panted, as Jamie lightly squeezed her thin waist with his
fingers. “You must have been in someextraordinaryplaces in Paris, Jamie. Must have
partnered with lots of girls there, leaving a trail of crushed hearts in your
“No.” He replied, his voice husky. “I didn’t
understand it, then. What it takes to be able to dance like this – but now,
perhaps, I finally do.”
“Jamie, I…” She gulped. “I have more money and
lands than I can count. I have servants, jewels and dresses. But I haven’t been
happy in a long time. You’ve talked to me like a person – not a godforsaken
title – and for that alone I am grateful. But…”
“What?” He whispered, his fingers brushing her
cheek, with heartbreaking tenderness and desire.
“Don’t dance with me unless you mean it.” Claire
whispered back. “I know it’s too much to ask, but – please, don’t go to
America. Stay here…” She ended softly, her unfinished sentence spiralling
between their pressed bodies. Stay here -
“I think I couldna leave even if I wanted to,
Claire.” Jamie breathed, hugging her against him. It was still dark - and yet
he was seeing explosions of light all around him, fast stars created by two
souls meeting in the night, strangers on the verge of becoming one. “Ye have
set my soul alight, mo nighean donn.
I seem to be blind – but now I can see.”
Happy Friday❗️🆒🆒🆒🆒🆒🆒🆒🆒🆒🆒👉 @assosofswitzerland
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Delicately rolled lamb roulade rests on a bone white plate. The plate is minimal as to not distract from the elegance of the meal itself but holds a thin line of silver on its porcelain to add some character and worth to the dish. The earthy beige of the animal’s flesh and the paleness of the plate are separated by a pool rich red figgy port wine sauce.
David sits across from the human, posture rigid and hands resting on his lap. He looks as if he is ready to fulfill a request the moment it is uttered, which he is. He watches, unblinking as the silver knife parts the meat before its lifted up by the fork and finally consumed. A silent delight ignites on Hannibal’s face as if he thought of the most private joke. It triggers David to fill the silence with the smooth melody of his voice.
“Coal-black is better than another hue, In that it scorns to bear another hue; For all the water in the ocean Can never turn the swan’s black legs to white, Although she lave them hourly in the flood.”