I was awake in the fraction of a second between my white noise app cutting out and the initiation of the dull, thrumming pulse of the Facetime ring.
Over the past six weeks, that sound had become both the highlight of my day and the bane of my existence; my wake-up call to a morning of cold sheets instead of Jamie Fraser, but a chance to at least see him, talk to him on the days when we couldn’t be together.
I had my thumb hovering over the green answer button just as Jamie’s sleepy-smiled, mussed-haired picture popped up on my mobile. No matter how many times I saw it, I couldn’t help but smile at my screen. He’d given a pained grimace when he first saw my photo choice, trying to snatch my mobile from my hands with an emphatic “surely ye have more flatterin’ pictures of me on yer camera roll than that, Sassenach?”
Heavy-limbed with satisfaction and blissfully happy, I’d been brave enough in that moment to tell my newly-official-boyfriend the truth: that this was the way I liked to think of him, the way I missed him the most when we were apart. Drenched in morning sunlight, rolling over to face me with a pillow-lined face and a tender smile. I’d snapped this particular photo in just such a moment, and immediately assigned it to his contact in my mobile.
And it was staying there permanently, I’d told him, whether he liked it or not.
His vengeance had been swift and fierce. As I answered, I shifted my hips to ease the warm ache building between my legs at the mere memory of what he’d done to me in retribution.
The live-streamed face that replaced his picture was bright as a daisy; naturally, he was already dressed and ready for the day. It was five o’clock in the bloody morning for him, and he’d already been to the gym for a workout, I was sure. He was freshly showered and shaved, damp auburn hair curling around his ears and at the nape of his neck.
Suffice to say Captain James Fraser was a morning person, and a cheerful one.
I… was decidedly neither.
“Good morning, starshine,” he singsonged in a low, teasing voice. “The earth says hello.”
I buried my smile in my pillow with a groan.
“Up ye get, Sassenach.”
“Nn-nnhn,” I grunted.
“Yes-hnh,” he insisted. “Ye ken what today is, don’t ye?”
“Monday,” I responded cheekily, mouth still muffled by the pillow.
“Aye, Monday,” he agreed with one last nip of sarcasm before his features softened. “Happy Christmas, mo nighean donn.”
I turned my face to look at him then, my own smile gentling. “Happy Christmas,” I whispered. I thought for a moment, quirked an eyebrow, then added, “Christmas Eve, that is.”
He made a distinctly Scottish grunt of concession. “Yer flight’s at 12:30, aye?” I responded with a guttural sound of agreement myself, and Jamie made a point of looking at his watch. “Ye ken that means ye need to be at the airport in half an hour?”
“I’m already at the bloody airport,” I grumbled, though his point was well taken. I kicked off the coverlet and swung my legs out of bed with a sigh. “I’m at the Hilton at Terminal 4.”
There was a pause as he took in that particular scrap of information, his eyes darkening.
“Are ye then?” he asked, in a tone that sent goosebumps rippling down my arms and made my nipples pucker against my sleep shirt.
A smirk curled the corner of my mouth as I flipped the camera and turned slowly around the room, giving him a panoramic view before switching the screen back to me.
“Christ.” He was biting his lower lip. “Is it the same room, even?”
I laughed. “I don’t have any idea what room it was—”
“328,” Jamie supplied without a moment’s hesitation.
Now it was my turn to bite my lip.
“Oh,” I said, in a voice pitched slightly too high. I dropped my eyes, blushing from chest to cheeks, failing utterly in my attempts to appear unaffected. “Well. I’m in 206 this time.”
Jesus H. Christ, he was actually licking his lips.
Seven months later, the memories of our first time together, here in this hotel, were enough to make both of us burn. We stared at each other, three thousand miles apart, breathing shallowly and aching for one another in the silence that stretched between us.
Jamie was the first to come to his senses. “I’d better let ye go,” he said softly, reluctantly. “Ye need to be on time for that flight, Sassenach. I canna get ye in my arms soon enough.”
I wet my lips, nodding with a shaky exhale. “Tonight.”
I ended the call on the image of his stoic nod, the blue of his irises swallowed by wide, scorching black pupils.
I tossed my mobile onto the bed with a sharp sigh and stripped off my pyjamas as I headed into the bathroom. Two minutes later, with the shower blasting as hot as it would go, I finished myself with small, slender fingers that were a poor substitute for the ones I wanted.
A few more hours, I reminded myself as I slumped against the tile wall, twitching and only half-satisfied. Just a few more hours.
I heard the repeated chime of my text tone from the other room, but with only half a head of hair straightened, two smears of concealer applied to my face, and less than twenty minutes before I needed to be out the door, I made no immediate move to grab it.
Another four chimes, and I smirked, shaking my head in wry amusement. “Yes, my horny lad,” I muttered under my breath as I pulled my straightening iron through a particularly stubborn patch of curls. “I hear you. Hold your bloody horses.”
Sixteen texts were waiting for me when I finally stepped back out into the bedroom to retrieve my mobile from the duvet — only four from Jamie; the rest from my direct supervisor and from corporate headquarters at Virgin Atlantic.
I felt my stomach sink before I’d even tapped the screen to open the first text.
They all conveyed some variation on the same message: all flights had been grounded in or out of the Tri-State area due to inclement weather. All Heathrow to JFK service for the day was therefore cancelled, including my own flight.
I opened Jamie’s texts last, and already knew by then what they’d say. The entire series of messages could be summarized by the screenshot he’d sent of his weather app, with his own hand-written contribution scrawled over it in red: FUUUCCCKKK 🤬
I agreed with the sentiment wholeheartedly. But it wasn’t until I heard his voice on the other end of the line that I felt my throat begin to constrict.
“It’s alright, Sassenach,” he said softly. “I’ll see ye whenever ye can get here.”
I was silent for a long moment, trying in vain to get my voice under control. “It’s not alright,” I finally managed, swiping angrily at the trickle of tears that had escaped down my cheek.
“No,” he agreed with a sigh. “It’s not.” He was quiet for a moment. “There’s just… nothin’ we can do about it.” The line went silent again for a long time before I sniffled and his voice grew strained. “Dinna cry, Claire. We’ll do something special once ye do get here, aye? However much time we have, we’ll make it count.”
I put the back of my hand to my mouth, swallowed hard, then choked, “We always do.”
Jamie made a soft hum of agreement. “It’s sort of become our speciality, hm?”
He continued to speak in reassuring, dulcet tones, but I barely heard him.
An idea had begun to take root in my mind.
“I have to go,” I told Jamie suddenly. “I’ll call you later?”
“Aye, of course.”
“Talk to you soon,” I promised, and disconnected the call.
It had taken some finagling. Quite a bit of finagling. Several calls, some intense pleading with my supervisor, and a few last-minute favors called in with colleagues.
But I’d figured it out.
Of course, part of me felt terribly for bumping one of the other passengers from the already-overbooked flight from London to Washington, D.C. As I buckled in for the eight-hour plane ride, I closed my eyes, tipped my face back into the stream of cool air from the circular vent, and tried to picture Jamie instead.
Jamie, who had no idea I was on my way back to him.
The way his face would light up when I stepped through his door, a true Christmas surprise. How his eyes would melt, the smile that would split his handsome face from ear to ear. The words he’d murmur into my hair as he pulled me close. The things he’d do to show just how appreciative he was that I’d managed to find my way back to him — working me with dexterous fingers and a hungry mouth, teasing mercilessly until I begged him, begged to have him inside of me...
I shifted in my seat, crossing my legs and clearing my throat.
I was sorry, I decided, for that other passenger.
But not that sorry.
It was a four-hour drive from Washington, D.C. to New York City under the best of circumstances.
These were decidedly not the best of circumstances.
Aside from the mind-fuck of driving on the wrong side of the bloody road, there was, of course, a raging blizzard to contend with; slippery roads, major metropolitan traffic moving at half-speed, and an unfamiliar rental car.
All things considered, though, I’d certainly navigated worse.
Dead-set upon making the best of it, I cranked up a Christmas station, grabbed a bag of crisps and a terrible-but-seemingly-holiday-appropriate “peppermint mocha” at a petrol station, and then I was off.
The first several hours were pleasant enough. It was Christmas Eve, and every song on the radio seemed to be a nod to my top-secret scheme to surprise my boyfriend.
Make my wish come true, baby all I want for Christmas is you! I sang with gusto to my steering wheel, the first five times I heard it.
I’ll be home for Christmas, you can plan on me…
And in an act of outright defiance: Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful, and since we’ve no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
Six hours in, I finally shut the bloody radio off. With my fingers pressed to my temples, I was fighting a losing battle against an oncoming headache. I was knackered, hungry, stiff, bored, and so beyond tired of staring at brake lights, I could scream.
And I wanted Jamie.
Not even just the sex (though I certainly still craved that, too). I wanted his comfort, his smell, his warmth. I wanted the sound of his voice, the gentle stirring of his breath in my hair.
“God, you really do love the bastard, don’t you?” I muttered to myself. It wasn’t exactly a revelation; I’d known for certain last week, when he met me in Seattle in the middle of the night. I’d told him so then, and on a handful of occasions since.
Still… the recognition flooded me with a reassuring warmth that I very much needed in that particular moment.
I readjusted my grip on the steering wheel with a heavy sigh, but at the end of the exhale, a tiny smile touched the corners of my mouth.
82 minutes, the GPS promised.
90, I mentally corrected, remembering that I still had one last stop to make, to change into something a bit more suitable for the night ahead.
“Almost there, Jamie,” I whispered into the droning hum of the car’s interior. “Almost there.”
It was 11:39 PM EST — still technically Christmas Eve, I noted with a flare of triumph — when I dragged myself over the last step of the four-story climb to Jamie’s flat in Queens.
We’d given one another keys to our respective flats two months ago, very shortly after we’d finally taken the leap and exchanged numbers. I’d only ever been to his place once before, though, and he’d yet to visit mine; our layovers in New York and London simply hadn’t aligned yet to provide more opportunities. But the one time I had been here, we’d spent a leisurely four days in this building, ordering Doordash and grocery delivery service to free up our schedules for more pressing uses of our time.
Such as breaking in every flat surface we could find.
An involuntary shiver went down my spine at the memory, my toes curling in my boots. I chewed my bottom lip, almost lightheaded with anticipation and arousal as I fitted the small gold key in the lock and turned it with a quiet click.
Surprising Jamie had been my plan all along. But nothing — absolutely nothing — could have prepared me for the sight that awaited me when the door creaked open on its hinges.
The whole flat was awash in the soft golden glow of candlelight. Hundreds of tiny white electric tea candles covered the floor, the counters, the tables, the bookshelves. And scattered amongst them, interspersed at careful intervals, were thousands upon thousands of red rose petals, delicate sprigs of baby’s breath, and clusters of soft blue forget-me-nots.
I don’t think I breathed for several seconds as I stood motionless just inside the threshold, my heart in my throat.
When I did draw in a breath again, it was with a hitch, my hand pressed to my mouth.
“Jamie,” I gasped.
My tear-blurred eyes scanned the room several times over before they finally landed on him. He was curled up on the couch, fast asleep, two wine glasses (the bottom of one stained red, the other sparkling clean) and an empty bottle of Merlot sitting beside him.
I didn’t want to jump to conclusions. It was Christmas Eve, after all; he might have only meant to surprise me with a romantic evening.
But I knew. In my bones, I knew what he’d intended.
I dropped my bag and purse in the entryway, toed off my boots, and closed and locked the door, my ragged breathing the only sound in the room.
And then, quiet and shaking, I went to him.
I knelt slowly on the floor in front of the couch, careful not to disturb him. For a while I simply studied his face in the candlelight, then, very gently, reached up to trace a fingertip over the chiseled line of his jaw, his cheekbone, his temple.
A faint smile touched his face as he slept, and I felt my heart swell against the confines of my ribcage until I was certain it would burst.
“I love you,” I whispered, running my finger over the soft curve of his bottom lip. “God, I love you.”
He was deeply asleep — the wine likely had something to do with that. I didn’t mind. Without even bothering to take off my coat, I eased up onto the couch beside him, nestling into his warmth and settling my body comfortably along the curve of his. Jamie stirred without fully waking; his arms and legs wrapped around me, drawing me close, and then he went slack again with a deep, contented sigh.
I had just begun to drift off myself, feeling warm and comfortable and loved, when a distant church bell tolled midnight.
Christmas, I realized, in that hazy place somewhere between waking and dreaming.
I tucked my cheek against Jamie’s chest and fell asleep smiling.
It was a long time later, sometime deep in the small hours of the night, before Jamie jerked awake, suddenly and fully aware of me. I smiled, stretching languidly as his muscles went rigid and a snuffled breath lifted my hair.
“Claire?” he grunted, tilting his head back to look at me incredulously.
“I should certainly hope so,” I answered groggily, rocking my hips against the bulge of his morning erection. “Or else you have some explaining to do, Jamie Fra—”
His mouth silenced mine, hard and frantic, his hands gripping the back of my head and pressing between my shoulder blades to pull me tight against him. I kissed him back, matching his urgency at first, but gradually easing him down with me, gentling him into softer, deeper kisses. When at last he’d settled — his lips drawing languidly against mine, brushing, grazing, and finally resting a hair’s breadth away, simply sharing air with me — I spoke again.
“You knew I would come.”
“I hoped you would,” he whispered, his breath warm on my lips. I felt him smile a little. “Although ye did have me worrit for a while, there, Sassenach.” He dragged a hand slowly through my hair, letting it slip through his fingers. “I’m sorry I opened the wine wi’out ye.”
“I’m sorry I was so late,” I answered, nuzzling the tip of my nose against his.
“Where did ye wind up flying into?”
His smile broadened, and he hummed as he kissed me. “Aye, that was my guess.”
“So much for my big surprise,” I lamented, eyebrows raised, though I was too happy to truly care.
“It’s what I would have done,” he explained, “had it been me.”
I kissed him for a while then, unhurried and savoring, opening, tasting. When at last we broke apart, I pulled back far enough to search his face.
“What is all of this, Jamie?” I whispered.
He brought his thumb up to trace my cheekbone. “Do ye truly not know?”
I knew he could see on my face that I did. I opened and closed my mouth, swallowed, then managed faintly, “Show me?”
He looked at me with such unutterable tenderness that my eyes blurred with tears. “Aye,” he agreed, taking my hand and bringing it to his lips. He shifted into a sitting position, and I followed suit, rising from the couch so he had room to get up. When he was standing too, he paused for a moment, just staring at me. I wasn’t sure whether it was a trick of the light, or whether a bright sheen of tears was glittering in his eyes, too.
Before I could be sure, he was moving again, guiding me toward the center of the room by the hand.
He got down on one knee in a circle of the hardwood floor that had been left empty of candles specifically for that purpose.
I went utterly to pieces then, in a way I never imagined I would when I’d watched any number of other people’s proposals. I’d known exactly what was coming and still, still, the sight of Jamie Fraser kneeling in front of me — his face open, his eyes impossibly vulnerable — was enough to break my heart with loving him.
“Claire… Elizabeth Beauchamp,” he said, slowly and deliberately, his eyes locked on mine and most certainly shining with tears now. “Mo nighean donn, I—I realize that we havena known each other for long. That I’m still getting to know ye, and you me. That by any modern standards of—of dating or… whatever it is we’ve been doing, this is soon, and I—”
I shook my head at him, trying to smile between hitching sobs. I squeezed his hand, and he breathed out a little sigh of relief.
“What I do ken is… all the things I know about ye, all the things I’ve learned, only lead me to believe that ye’re everything I could ever want. Ye’re—ye’re wicked smart, and brave, and canty, and strong. Ye make me laugh more than anyone I’ve ever met, and… Christ, ye’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. So I—I think I’d be an absolute eejit if I didna at least ask ye…” He sniffled, smiling brokenly as he reached into his back pocket to retrieve a small velvet box. “If ye’ll let me spend the rest of my days learnin’ everything there is to know about ye. It would be the honor of my life, Claire Beauchamp, if you would have me as yer husband.”
I was sure the ring was beautiful, but I couldn’t bloody well see it through the veritable waterfall streaming down my face. I could barely breathe, let alone speak, so I simply nodded emphatically as he slipped the band onto my finger. The moment it was in place, I dropped to my knees in front of him, trembling like a leaf, and pressed my lips to his desperately.
We were inconsolable messes, the two of us. We were both crying too hard to kiss properly; after a few firm smacks, we took to alternately sobbing into one another’s open mouths and laughing breathlessly at ourselves.
When my throat opened up enough to let through any sound at all, I managed a whimpering, “Yes, Jamie Fraser. Yes, I’ll have you.” He took my hand in his, releasing his breath in a shaking exhale as he ran his thumb over the band, brought it to his lips, then held my hand to his heart.
“Thank God.” He choked out a laugh, dropping his forehead to mine. “What a terrible Christmas it would have been for both of us if ye’d said no.”
I laughed brokenly too, shaking my head at him without pulling away. “Fat chance of that, my lad.”
“I did alright, then?” he asked after a moment, his voice quiet, husky. I eased forward until I was tucked against his chest, his chin resting on my head, then both of us watched as I finally lifted my hand to inspect the ring he’d given me.
“It’s beautiful,” I breathed, tilting my hand to watch the candlelight glitter in the facets of the simple, delicate diamond. I turned my face into his chest after a moment and drew in a deep breath, inhaling the warm, familiar scent of him. I kissed him just over his heart, then tipped my face up to look at him. “It’s perfect, Jamie,” I murmured. “All of it.”
His features softened in mingled tenderness and relief. He let out his breath in a huff, then leaned down to press his lips to my forehead. We lingered there for a long moment, eyes closed, before the reverent silence was broken by both of us sniffling noisily, almost in tandem. Jamie smiled, then put a hand on my shoulder to steady me as he leaned back on his haunches, stretching behind him to grab a box of Kleenex off a nearby end table.
“Here, mo nighean donn,” he offered, handing me the whole box of tissues after he’d taken a wad for himself. We both proceeded to sputter out hoarse, self-conscious little gasps of laughter as we sat a few feet apart on the floor, mopping at our eyes and blowing our noses. When I’d tossed the last of my crumpled tissues into a heaping pile next to me, Jamie reached over and swept them all up, kissed the tip of my nose, then stood to go deposit the whole snotty lot into the rubbish bin.
I took the opportunity to sneak off to the restroom, where I immediately groaned at the sight of my puffy, red-faced reflection in the mirror. My makeup was ruined anyway, so I scrubbed my face clean with soap and water, brushed my teeth, and made my way back out into the main living space, where I heard Jamie at the kitchen sink doing the same.
I situated myself comfortably on the couch, tucking one of my legs up under me as I waited for him to join me. He didn’t keep me waiting long; less than a minute later, he reappeared around the corner, wearing only his jeans. No matter how many times I saw him like this, the view never failed to take my breath away. He was built like a bloody Greek god, with beautiful golden skin stretched over hard muscles and long bones, strong tendons and corded veins. I leaned back against the couch cushions, letting my gaze drift slowly down his torso with unabashed appreciation, following the delectable cut of his v-lines into the waistband of his jeans. A quick glance back up at his face showed his own features rapidly darkening with hunger as he crossed the room, and I shifted my hips in an unconscious search for friction as a slick heat began to pulse between my legs.
“Are ye cold, Sassenach?” Jamie asked as he slid onto the couch next to me, both of us rearranging ourselves in some unspoken agreement until I was lying flat on my back with him propped up on his hip alongside me.
It took me a moment to realize what he meant; I glanced down as the backs of his fingers grazed the lapel of my woolen trench coat, and only then did it occur to me that I was still wearing it all these hours later.
“Oh,” I said, biting my lip as blood rushed to my cheeks. “No, I um—” I laughed self-consciously, looking at him through my lashes. “Well, it was supposed to be a surprise for you.”
His eyes lifted briefly to meet mine, and I watched his pupils dilate and constrict again as he shifted his gaze back down to the front of my coat.
“Oh aye?” he murmured, running the tip of his forefinger around the smooth surface of the top button.
I twined my fingers through the hair at the back of his neck and began to draw him down to me. “Aye,” I whispered in one last breath against his lips before pulling him into a slow, searing kiss. He smiled against my mouth at the familiar exchange, and the tip of his tongue flicked out to catch my upper lip in a tiny lick as he pulled away.
“Ye’re just full of surprises tonight, aren’t ye, Sassenach?” he remarked, slipping a finger into the loophole of the first button, carefully unfastening it without revealing what lay underneath.
“One or two,” I said rather breathlessly. My eyes tracked the painfully slow progression of his fingers down the centerline of my chest, watching my own ribcage rise and fall in shallow pants while he pried open the second button, then the third, and fourth…
When he finally unfastened the last of them, he paused for a moment, blue eyes searching mine for permission. I gave a faint nod, and he took a deep breath and held it as he peeled back the front of my trench coat.
I was blushing furiously; I could feel the heat of it flaming in my cheeks, my neck, my breasts. I was completely torn between wild self-consciousness and the inability to tear my eyes away from Jamie’s face as he took me in.
I’d felt absolutely ridiculous when I tried the ensemble on in the store, smoothing my hands down my torso as I turned to look at myself in the mirror from every angle. I’d never in my life worn anything like this; not for one-night stands, not for long-term boyfriends, not even when I was briefly engaged to a history professor in Boston. I was an independent woman, confident in my sexuality, as eager to give pleasure as I was to receive it. Still, I considered myself an eminently practical being, and found the whole idea of lingerie to be more of a hindrance than a help.
But watching Jamie look at me in that decidedly impractical little getup, I was starting to rethink my entire stance on the subject.
His eyes had gone jet black — dark as the few scraps of fabric left covering me. He was absolutely still, save those eyes, which dragged slowly down the length of my body, then back again. He didn’t breathe, didn’t say anything. Just stared.
After several agonizing seconds of this, I laughed nervously, my flush deepening as I draped a hand across my breasts. “Will you bloody well say something?”
Jamie remained absolutely silent, but at long last, his Adam’s apple bobbed in a swallow.
Another five heartbeats, and then he let out his breath in a controlled stream that ended in two tight, clipped words. “Stand up.”
“What?” I asked automatically. I’d heard him; I didn’t know why I said it.
He couldn’t look me in the eye; his gaze was fixed at the center of my chest, where my heart pounded frantically against my sternum.
“Stand up,” he said again, his voice so low I hardly recognized it. “I want to look at ye.”
I stared at him for a long moment, silent and unmoving.
The space around us crackled with electricity, heavy and humid, expectant as the air before a lightning strike. In all of our months together, all the varied and sometimes savage, ferocious sexual encounters we’d shared, I’d never felt intensity like this — the black, primal want so powerful it stripped me of the ability to think, to move, to breathe.
I still don’t know how I wound up on my feet. Somehow, I did. Somehow, I found myself standing on trembling legs, my eyes locked on Jamie’s face as I drew a fingertip slowly across my hipbones, my abdomen, teasing along the low, sloping black border of my garter belt before I brought my hand to rest casually on my waist.
“Like this?” I asked in a whisper, watching as his bottom lip disappeared between his teeth — as he tightened his fists until his nails cut into the flesh of his palms. He still didn’t speak; couldn’t.
Knowing damn well that I was playing with fire, I began to turn, watching him over my shoulder as I slowly rotated on the spot, giving him an unobstructed view of the arse I knew he loved so much, both buttocks left free and bare for his inspection, parted only by a tiny scrap of black lace.
“Or this?” I asked.
I felt it — the shift in the air, the stir of motion — before I saw him move out of the corner of my eye. I didn’t even have time to brace myself before Jamie’s right palm pressed into my lower belly, pinning me against him, his fingers spanning the entire valley between my hips. The left went into my hair, tangling it into a fist and pushing it roughly aside. His mouth was on my neck then, open and panting. He put his teeth into the smooth curve of muscle until I gasped, then he quickly sealed his lips over the sting, sucking, swirling his tongue over the angry red flesh to soothe it.
“I want ye, Claire,” he groaned just behind my ear, his voice so strained with lust it broke halfway through. “I want ye so much I can scarcely breathe.” The fist tangled in my hair tightened, tipping my head sideways to expose more of my neck. He dragged his open mouth down my skin until he found the hammering pulse of my carotid, and he made a soft, groaning hum there that sent a shockwave through my nervous system, a lightning bolt of white-hot pleasure that made my toes curl, my breasts ache, and my sex throb. Goosebumps erupted under his mouth, and he smiled.
“Do ye want me?”
Eyes so heavy-lidded with desire I could barely keep them open, I tried unsuccessfully to turn my face to his, to meet his gaze. He wouldn’t release his hold on my neck, though; giving up, I allowed my eyes to slip fully shut, a delirious smile lifting the corners of my mouth as I put my right hand over his, still resting on my lower belly, and began to push it down.
“See for yourself,” I encouraged in a hoarse rasp.
I felt his breathing grow labored — his lungs pumping against my back, his breath falling in shallow, humid pants over my neck — as his fingers slipped over the piping of my garter belt, the textures of leather and mesh and ribbon, before finally reaching the soft scrap of delicate lace that dipped down between my legs.
I dropped my head back on a gasping breath in the same moment that Jamie released his in a shudder against my skin.
My head lolled against his shoulder as he ran his middle finger along the strip of thoroughly saturated lace, then detoured in a gentle, circulatory exploration to the slippery wet folds surrounding it.
“Jesus Christ,” he choked out; I felt the shiver run down his spine this time.
“I’ve been thinking about this all day,” I confessed, my own voice so husky I barely recognized it as my own. “About you.”
“Why did ye let me sleep?” he groaned, exerting a bit more pressure until my hips lifted involuntarily into his hand.
“You— ah,” I gasped, bit my lower lip. “—you were tired.”
His incredulous snort of laughter huffed across my throat. “Weel, for future reference, ye could raise me from the dead for this, Sassenach, and I wouldna mind it a bit.” All of a sudden, his hand withdrew, and my eyes snapped open, an indignant protest dying on my lips when I looked up just in time to watch him suck his fingers clean. He made a hum deep in his throat, as if he’d tasted his favorite meal, and I blushed fiercely. When he was finished, he took hold of my hips, turned me to face him, and eased slowly down onto his knees, his eyes staring up into mine the whole time, black as flint. “Ye should never go wanting when ye’re with me, Claire. Never.”
And before I had time to do any more than brace my hands on top of his head for balance, he’d wrapped one large, calloused hand around my left thigh, lifting it up and over his shoulder, while the fingers of his right gripped into the curve of my arse.
He pulled me in, spread my legs wide, and set about his task like he was born to it.
He dragged his open mouth over the lace at first, just hovering, teasing with the heat of his panting breaths. When I tried to nudge myself into him, close that last infuriating gap, he drew back, smirking, and only eased back in when I’d gone still again.
He wanted me to ask, I knew. To beg.
And tonight, I was only too happy to oblige him.
“Please, Jamie,” I whimpered the next time his restless, warm mouth drifted just over the spot where I needed him the most. “Please."
He hummed, pressing his lips lightly, just there, then murmured, “Ah. Weel, since ye asked so nicely, mo ghraidh…”
He gave a tentative lick — a long, slow stripe along the length of silk — and I wrenched both hands into his hair, my head bowed, eyes screwed shut in concentration. When I whimpered in encouragement, he did it again, down and back again, swirling his tongue in a quick circle when he reached the top. I jerked, and he smiled against me.
It seemed like hours — hours — that he teased and nudged, suckled and licked me through the lace before the fingers of his right hand finally abandoned their grip on my buttocks to push the soaked scrap of lingerie aside and slip inside of me, joining the efforts of his mouth to send me reeling, shaking and sobbing, over the edge.
It was one of the longest, slowest-burning, most intense orgasms of my entire life.
And he’d only just begun.
When he’d eased me through the last of the aftershocks, stroking my thighs and pressing soft, stubbled kisses just above my pubic bone, he climbed to his feet and captured my lips in a gentle kiss. I was still trembling when he picked me up as easily as if I were a child and carried me into his bedroom.
He sat down on the edge of the mattress and simply cradled me in his lap for a while, drawing his fingertips in light circles over my arms and back until my breathing and heartbeat slowed to match his. I must have dozed for a moment, because the next thing I knew he was shifting me down onto the mattress and pulling the covers up over me.
I was awake immediately, whimpering in protest as he started to pull away. “Sorry. Sorry, I’m up.”
Jamie tucked a piece of hair behind my ear, his brow furrowed. “Ye can sleep, mo ghraidh. I ken ye’re exhausted, it’s been a long day. I can see to myself for now, and in the morning, we can—”
I sat up and silenced him with a kiss. “Do you remember what you said to me about raising from the dead for this?”
He narrowed his eyes skeptically at me. “Aye,” he agreed between quick, fluttering kisses, “but—I—didna—think—the—same—rules—applied to— mmm —you.”
I pushed him down onto the mattress, hitched my knee over his waist to straddle him, and began a slow, steady grind with my hips as I reached down between us to unbutton and unzip his jeans.
“Well, let me state, for the record,” I said as I slipped my hand into his open fly and began to massage the warm velvet length of him in long, practiced strokes, “that you are always more than welcome to wake me up to ask for sex…” I leaned down until I could touch my nose to his, capturing his choked gasp between my parted lips. Smirking, I continued matter-of-factly, “And I will either oblige you, or tell you to go to hell and let me sleep.” I pecked him again, quickly, on the lips, before sitting up, aligning myself over him, and slowly sinking down, taking him to the root. We were both still for a moment; I closed my eyes, my head tipped back at the delicious, perfect stretch of him. I let out my breath in a pant of a laugh as I began to rock. “But it… never hurts to… ask…”
“Duly noted,” Jamie choked out, and I opened my eyes to see him bite his bottom lip, the tendons and veins in his neck straining.
I continued to ride him slowly and leisurely, thoroughly enjoying the payback for the teasing he’d made me endure. It was only meant to be temporary, but after a few minutes, I’d managed to find exactly the right combination of movements to make my pleasure whirl and spike. As I rose and fell — my face screwed tight in concentration, grinding just there against his pubic bone — I discovered that Jamie’s hands, which had been wandering restlessly over my stomach and thighs, had found permanent holdfasts at my breast and hip.
I opened my eyes to find him watching me with quiet awe.
A smile twitched at the corner of his mouth when he caught my gaze. “Go ahead, a nighean,” he murmured, tilting his hips into mine in encouragement. “Take what ye need from me. I want to watch ye.”
It was all the permission I needed.
I bent to kiss him soundly in appreciation before sitting back up again, picking up the rhythm I craved and riding him hard until the sparks of pleasure condensed and intensified into a blinding white finish.
Although he let out a tight, strangled gah sound as I clenched around him and slumped forward against his chest, I knew at once that Jamie hadn’t finished; he was still hard and urgent inside of me. Giddy and grinning and breathless, I pressed a humming kiss to his mouth, and pulled back on a contented sigh.
“Your turn,” I offered, rubbing a palm over his sweat-slicked chest. I sat up, brushed my hair over my shoulder, and fixed him with the most seductive smile I could manage. “How would you like me, Captain Fraser?”
I already knew the answer, of course. James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser — my future husband, and the love of my life — was an arse man through and through. Any position that would afford him the best view of my derriere would always be his preference.
I appreciated, though, that he actually pretended to take a moment to think about it whilst I was already dismounting him and taking up position on my hands and knees.
Like horses, ye ken? he’d said once, and I’d laughed uproariously at him — such a farm boy.
I hadn’t been laughing long that first time, or any time since.
It was Jamie’s favorite position for obvious reasons. But it had quickly become one of mine too, for very different ones.
He was fast this way, Christ was he fast. And deep. It was a very good thing I was automatically braced, because he held nothing back; he hammered into me as hard as he could, with blinding speed, until I buckled onto the mattress, gasping and jerking with pleasure, clenching violently around him until at last his thrusts staggered out of rhythm. He cried out — his usual grunts and gasps punctuated by a strangled sob, a mix of Gaelic and my name — and then he pistoned into me, hard, one last time, before a deep shudder built from the base of his spine. His whole body went rigid and still, and then I was flooded from the inside with pulses of liquid warmth, mingling with mine.
He collapsed on top of me like a dead weight, pinning me to the mattress, panting open-mouthed against my shoulder. For a while I was too winded, too stunned with pleasure to care, but eventually I began to wriggle, and he eased off to one side, collected me against his chest, and spooned around me.
Sleep claimed us both almost instantly; we were too exhausted to even reach down to grab the covers.
When the repetitive, strumming guitar strains filled the room a little while later, the front of me was ice-cold and covered in goosebumps, my back still slicked with sweat where Jamie was curled against it. He didn’t move; he was snoring gently in my ear. I wriggled my hips sleepily, hoping it would rouse him to go grab his mobile.
Sighing, I rolled out of bed and slapped my palm around the floor, half-awake, trying to find his damn phone so I could shut the bloody alarm off. At long last, I found it about a foot under the bed, having slid a bit, apparently, when Jamie had kicked his jeans off onto the floor.
My scowling face softened when I squinted down at the alarm name on the screen.
Sassenach’s Morning Wake-Up Call: Attempt #1
Evidently, barring the success of the first attempt, there were alarms for two more, in subsequent ten-minute intervals.
I huffed out a laugh as I powered the damn thing all the way off and climbed back into bed with my fiance, dragging the covers with me this time.
“Wake up attempt number one?” he mumbled into my hair as I snuggled up against him.
“Mhm,” I hummed.
“Never works,” he informed me groggily. “Takes three most mornings.”
“Hush,” I told him, pinching his side. He hissed, laughed, and then tucked me close again. “It’s Christmas. No alarms today.”
“No, mo nighean donn,” he whispered, pressing his smiling lips to my shoulder as I drifted off to sleep. “No alarms today.”