There it was…the small noise which had awakened him. Claire lay next to him in the bed and Frank listened to her ragged breathing. Not for the first time, he found himself lying next to his wife, listening to her make love to … him. The great man of mystery, Jamie Fraser.
Claire’s breathing changed, subtly but quite definitely quickening. He’d heard this countless times before. During those first years of his marriage to Claire, when he was the man who roused her blood he’d taken immense satisfaction in eliciting such sounds from her. Then. But this was now. And now, Claire’s blood was roused once again, but no longer by Frank. Again he listened as the sounds coming from the other side of his marital bed changed, from shortened breathing to small mewling sounds.
She dreamed of him still, years after her return. Jamie Fraser might as well have lain in the bed between them, making love to Claire right in front of Frank. The effect was much the same. Frank felt his jaw tighten another notch as he heard Claire approaching climax.
He could’ve wakened her. Could’ve confronted her with recriminations for this latest betrayal, but to what end? She’d told him to leave her when she lay helpless in the hospital in Inverness after she’d been found wandering near the stones at Craigh Na Dun three years after she disappeared there. He knew, with complete certainty, that should he confront her, she would once more tell him to leave. Worse, perhaps she would choose to leave him, taking Brianna with her. She was so much stronger now.
No. He couldn’t risk that. Not Brianna. He couldn’t lose her. Frank felt certain, more than certain, that he could withstand losing Claire. Bloody Hell, there were any number of women who’d proven willing to warm his bed and made clear they hoped for more. But he suspected, strongly, that he would never have a child of his own. Years of married life and no children. Not even a miscarriage. And the evidence of Claire’s ability to bear children lay in the next room sleeping. There could be no question of where the problem of infertility lay between them. Claire’s daughter, Frank’s daughter…Jamie’s daughter. Frank saw evidence of the man each time he looked at Brianna.
He felt like an intruder in his own marriage, like a voyeur listening to his wife make love to another man. Each time he was forced to lie in the dark listening, resentment hardened his heart a bit more towards Claire. Each time, he turned more towards Brianna and poured his love into the open and loving heart of his daughter.
He loved Claire, damn it all, still loved her, but knew he could move on without her. The thought of living without Brianna left him feeling hollow and ill, even more so than the humiliation of listening to Claire whisper, “Oh, Jamie!” And so, Frank lay quietly in the dark, listening to his wife cry out in mingled ecstasy and longing for a man who was long dead. Impotent, in every sense of that word, to change the situation.