"There was a powerful urgency in him that roused me to response despite his awkwardness. Not wanting to lecture nor yet to highlight my own experience, I let him do what he would, only offering an occasional suggestion, such as that he might carry his weight on his elbows and not my chest.
As yet too hungry and too clumsy for tenderness, still he made love with a sort of unflagging joy that made me think that male virginity might be a highly underrated commodity."
Of the interest of marriage
He straightened a little, and leaned close, so the roughness of his whiskers brushed my cheek. His hand fell away, and I felt the softness of his lips against my temple, the butterfly touch of his tongue on my skin.
“And salt ,” he said, very softly, his breath warm on my face.
“There is salt on your face, and your lashes are wet. D’ye weep , Sassenach?
”“No,” I said, though I had a sudden, irrational urge to do just that.
“No, I sweat. I was … hot.”
I wasn’t any longer; my skin was cool; cold where the night-draft from the window chilled my backside. “Ah, but here … mm.” He was on his knees now, one arm about my waist to hold me still, his nose buried in the hollow between my breasts. “Oh,” he said, and his voice had changed again.
I didn’t normally wear perfume, but I had a special oil, sent from the Indies, made with orange flowers, jasmine, vanilla beans, and cinnamon. I had only a tiny vial, and wore a small dab infrequently— for occasions that I thought might perhaps be special.
“Ye wanted me,” he said ruefully. “And I fell asleep without even touching you. I’m sorry, Sassenach. Ye should have said.”
“You were tired.”
His hand had left my mouth; I stroked his hair , smoothing the long dark strands behind his ear. He laughed, and I felt the warmth of his breath on my bare stomach.
“Ye could raise me from the dead for that, Sassenach, and I wouldna mind it
.” He stood up then, facing me, and even in the dim light I could see that no such desperate measures on my part would be required.
“It’s hot,” I said. “I’m sweating.”
“Ye think I’m not?”
His hands closed on my waist and he lifted me suddenly, setting me down on the broad windowsill. I gasped at contact with the cool wood, reflexively grasping the window frame on either side.
“What on earth are you doing?”
He didn’t bother answering; it was an entirely rhetorical question, in any case.
“Eau de femme,” he murmured, his soft hair brushing across my thighs as he knelt.
The floorboards creaked under his weight. “ Parfum d’amor, mm?”
The cool breeze lifted my hair, drew it tickling across my back like the lightest of lover’s touches. Jamie’s hands were firm on the curve of my hips; I was in no danger of falling , and yet I felt the dizzy drop behind me, the clear and endless night, with its star-strewn empty sky into which I might fall and go on falling, a tiny speck, blazing hotter and hotter with the friction of my passage, bursting finally into the incandescence of a shooting … star.
“Ssh,” Jamie murmured, far off.
He was standing now, his hands on my waist, and the moaning noise might have been the wind, or me. His fingers brushed my lips. They might have been matches, striking flames against my skin. Heat danced over me, belly and breast, neck and face, burning in front, cool behind, like St. Lawrence on his gridiron. I wrapped my legs around him , one heel settled in the cleft of his buttocks, the solid strength of his hips between my legs my only anchor.
“Let go,” he said in my ear.
“I’ll hold you.” I did let go, and leaned back on the air, safe in his hands.
THE FIERY CROSS chapter 107 ZUGUNRUHE
He spoke with difficulty, controlling something so powerful that his hands shook with the effort. “
I’ll not … I can’t … Claire, I canna be gentle about it.”
I had time only to nod once, in acknowledgment or permission, before he bore me back before him, his weight pinning me to the bed. He did not pause to undress further . I could smell the road dust in his shirt, and taste the sun and sweat of travel on his skin. He held me, arms outstretched, wrists pinioned. One hand brushed the wall, and I felt the tiny scrape of one wedding ring chiming against the stone. One ring for each hand, one silver, one gold. And the thin metal suddenly heavy as the bonds of matrimony, as though the rings were tiny shackles, fastening me spread-eagled to the bed, stretched forever between two poles, held in bondage like Prometheus on his lonely rock, divided love the vulture that tore at my heart. He spread my thighs with his knee and sheathed himself to the root in a single thrust that made me gasp. He made a sound that was almost a groan, and gripped me tighter.
“You’re mine, mo duinne,” he said softly, pressing himself into my depths. “Mine alone, now and forever. Mine, whether ye will it or no.” I pulled against his grip, and sucked in my breath with a faint
“ah” as he pressed even deeper.
“Aye, I mean to use ye hard, my Sassenach,” he whispered.
“I want to own you, to possess you, body and soul.”
I struggled slightly and he pressed me down, hammering me, a solid, inexorable pounding that reached my womb with each stroke.
“I mean to make ye call me ‘Master,’ Sassenach.” His soft voice was a threat of revenge for the agonies of the last minutes. “I mean to make you mine.”
I quivered and moaned then, my flesh clutching in spasms at the invading, battering presence . The movement went on, disregarding, on and on for minutes, striking me over and over with an impact on the edge between pleasure and pain. I felt dissolved, as though I existed only at the point of the assault, being forced to the edge of some total surrender. “No!”
“Stop, please, you’re hurting me!” Beads of sweat ran down his face and dropped on the pillow and on my breasts. Our flesh met now with the smack of a blow that was fast crossing the edge into pain. My thighs were bruising with the repeated impact, and my wrists felt as though they would break, but his grip was inexorable. “Aye, beg me for mercy, Sassenach. Ye shallna have it, though; not yet.” His breath came hot and fast, but he showed no signs of tiring. My entire body convulsed, legs rising to wrap around him, seeking to contain the sensation. I could feel the jolt of each stroke deep in my belly, and cringed from it, even as my hips rose traitorously to welcome it. He felt my response, and redoubled his assault, pressing now on my shoulders to keep me pinned under him. There was no beginning and no end to my response, only a continuous shudder that rose to a peak with each thrust. The hammering was a question, repeated over and over in my flesh, demanding my answer. He pushed my legs flat again, and bore me down past pain and into pure sensation, over the edge of surrender.
“Yes!” I cried. “Oh God, Jamie, yes!”
He gripped my hair and forced my head back to meet his eyes, glowing with furious triumph. “Aye, Sassenach,” he muttered, answering my movements rather than my words.
“Ride ye I will!” His hands dropped to my breasts, squeezing and stroking, then slid down my sides . His whole weight rested on me now as he cupped and raised me for still greater penetration. I screamed then and he stopped my mouth with his, not a kiss, but another attack, forcing my mouth open, bruising my lips and rasping my face with bearded stubble . He thrust harder and faster, as though he would force my soul as he forced my body. In body or soul, somewhere he struck a spark, and an answering fury of passion and need sprang from the ashes of surrender. I arched upward to meet him, blow for blow. I bit his lip and tasted blood. I felt his teeth then on my neck and dug my nails into his back. I raked him from nape to buttocks, spurring him to rear and scream in his turn. We savaged each other in desperate need, biting and clawing, trying to draw blood, trying each to pull the other into ourselves, tearing each other’s flesh in the consuming desire to be one. My cry mingled with his, and we lost ourselves finally in each other in that last moment of dissolution and completion.
“Now, about that quarter of an hour, Sassenach … I believe I could manage wi’ a bit less, if necessary.…”
“Well, I couldn’t ,” I said firmly, though I did allow my hand to fondle him for a thoughtful instant.
My face was burning from contact with his whiskers.
“And when we do have time, you can tell me what on earth you’ve been doing to bring this on.”
“Dreaming,” he said. “What?”
“I kept havin’ terrible lewd dreams about ye, all the night long,”
he explained, twitching his breeks into better adjustment.
“Every time I rolled over, I’d lie on my cock and wake up. It was awful.”
I burst out laughing , and he affected to look injured, though I could see reluctant amusement behind it.
“Well, you can laugh, Sassenach,” he said.
“Ye havena got one to trouble ye.”
“Yes, and a great relief it is, too,”
I assured him.
“Er … what sort of lewd dreams?”
I could see a deep blue gleam of speculation at the back of his eyes as he looked at me. He extended one finger, and very delicately ran it down the side of my neck, the slope of my breast where it disappeared into my bodice, and over the thin cloth covering my nipple— which promptly popped up like a puffball mushroom in response to this attention. “The sort that make me want to take ye straight into the forest, far enough that no one will hear when I lay ye on the ground, lift your skirts, and split ye like a ripe peach,”
he said softly.
“Aye?” I swallowed, audibly. At this delicate moment, whoops of greeting came from the trailhead on the other side of the house.
“Duty calls,” I said, a trifle breathless. Jamie drew a deep breath of his own, squared his shoulders, and nodded.
“Well, I havena died of unrequited lust yet; I suppose I shallna do it now.”
“Don’t suppose you will,” I said .
“Besides, didn’t you tell me once that abstinence makes … er … things … grow firmer?
” He gave me a bleak look. “If it gets any firmer, I’ll faint from a lack of blood to the heid.
A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES chapter 20 DANGEROUS GIFTS
I felt his first involuntary start, and then he pulled me to him, arm tight around my back, mouth answering mine. Then he had me pressed flat to the earth , his weight holding me immobile beneath him. His shoulders darkened the bright sky above, and his hands held my arms against my sides, keeping me prisoner.
“All right ,” he whispered. His eyes bored into mine, daring me to close them, forcing me to hold his gaze.
“All right. And ye wish it, I shall punish you.”
He moved his hips against me in imperious command, and I felt my legs open for him, my gates thrown wide to welcome ravishment. “Never,” he whispered to me.
“Never. Never another but me! Look at me! Tell me! Look at me, Claire!”
He moved in me, strongly, and I moaned and would have turned my head, but he held my face between his hands, forcing me to meet his eyes, to see his wide, sweet mouth, twisted in pain.
“Never,” he said, more softly .
“For you are mine. My wife, my heart, my soul .
” The weight of him held me still, like a boulder on my chest, but the friction of our flesh made me thrust against him, wanting more. And more.
“My body ,” he said, gasping for breath as he gave me what I sought. I bucked beneath him as though I wanted to escape, my back arching like a bow, pressing me into him.
He lay then at full length on me, scarcely moving , so that our most intimate connection seemed barely closer than the marriage of our skins. The grass was harsh and prickly under me, the pungence of crushed stems sharp as the smell of the man who took me. My breasts were flattened under him, and I felt the small tickle of the hairs on his chest as we rubbed together, back and forth. I squirmed, urging him to violence, feeling the swell of his thighs as he pressed me down.
DRAGONFLY IN AMBER
“Hush,” he said again, though mildly . I hadn’t actually said anything, and the sound I’d made was too high-pitched to draw the attention of anything save a passing bat. I exhaled strongly through my nose and heard him chuckle deep in his throat. My stays came loose, and cool air flooded through the damp muslin of my shift. He paused, one hand on the tapes of my petticoats, to reach round with the other and gently lift one breast, heavy and free , thumb rubbing the nipple, hard and round as a cherry stone.
I made another sound, this one lower-pitched. I thought vaguely how fortunate it was that he was left-handed, as that was the hand nimbly engaged in undoing the tapes of my skirts. These fell in a swishing heap round my feet , and I had a sudden vision— as his hand left my breast and the shift whiffed up round my ears— of Young Mr. Bartram suddenly realizing a dire need to pot up a batch of rosemary seedlings. The shock probably wouldn’t kill him, but …“May as well be hung for sheep as lambs,” Jamie said, having evidently divined my thought from the fact that I’d turned round and was shielding my more private bits in the manner of Botticelli’s Venus. “And I’ll have ye naked.” He grinned at me, whipped off his own dirt-streaked shirt —he’d thrown off his coat when he set me down— and yanked down his breeks without pausing to undo the flies. He was thin enough to make this possible; the breeches hung on his hipbones, barely staying up by themselves, and I saw the shadow of his ribs beneath his skin as he bent to shed his stockings. He straightened and I put a hand on his chest. It was damp and warm, and the ruddy hairs prickled into gooseflesh at my touch. I could smell the hot, eager scent of him, even over the agricultural fug of the shed and the lingering smell of cabbage.
“Not so fast,” I whispered. He made a Scottish sound of interrogation , reaching for me, and I dug my fingers into the muscle of his breast. “I want a kiss first.”
He put his mouth against my ear and both hands firmly on my bottom. “Are ye in a position to make demands, d’ye think?” he whispered , tightening his grasp. I caught the faint barb in that. “Yes, I bloody am,” I said, and adjusted my own grip somewhat lower. He wouldn’t be attracting any bats, I thought. We were eyeball-to-eyeball, clasped and breathing each other’s breath, close enough to see the smallest nuance of expression, even in the dimness. I saw the seriousness that underlay the laughter— and the doubt beneath the bravado.
“I am your wife,” I whispered, my lips brushing his.
“I ken that,” he said, very softly, and kissed me. Softly.
Then closed his eyes and brushed his lips across my face, not so much kissing as feeling the contours of cheekbone and brow , of jaw and the tender skin below the ear, seeking to know me again past skin and breath, to know me to the blood and bone, to the heart that beat beneath.
I made a small sound and tried to find his mouth with my own, pressing against him, bare bodies cool and damp, hair rasping sweetly, and the lovely firmness of him rolling between us. He wouldn’t let me kiss him, though. His hand gripped the tail of my hair at the base of my neck, cupping my head, the other hand pursuing the same game of blind man’s buff. There was a rattling thump; I had backed into a potting bench, setting a tray of tiny seedling pots to vibrating, the spicy leaves of sweet basil trembling in agitation. Jamie pushed the tray aside with one hand, then grasped me by the elbows and lifted me onto the bench.
“Now,” he said, half breathless. “
I must have ye now.” He did , and I ceased caring whether there were splinters in the bench or not. I wrapped my legs round him and he laid me flat and leaned over me, hands braced on the bench, with a sound halfway between bliss and pain. He moved slowly in me and I gasped. The rain had grown from a patter to a ringing din on the tin roof of the shed, covering any sounds I might make, and a good thing, too, I thought dimly. The air had cooled but was full of moisture; our skins were slick, and heat sprang up where flesh touched flesh. He was slow, deliberate, and I arched my back, urging him. In response, he took me by the shoulders, bent lower, and kissed me lightly, barely moving.
“I willna do it,” he whispered, and held tight when I struggled against him, trying vainly to goad him into the violent response I wished— I needed.
“Won’t do what?” I was gasping.
“I willna punish ye for it,” he said, so softly I could barely hear him, close as he was.
“I’ll not do that, d’ye hear?”
“I don’t frigging want you to punish me, you bastard.” I grunted with effort, my shoulder joints creaking as I tried to break free of his grasp
. “I want you to … God, you know what I want!”
“Aye, I do.” His hand left my shoulder and cupped beneath my buttock , touching the flesh of our joining, stretched and slippery. I made a small sound of surrender, and my knees loosened. He pulled back, then came back into me, strongly enough that I gave a small, high-pitched cry of relief.
“Ask me to your bed,” he said, breathless, hands on my arms. “
I shall come to ye. For that matter— I shall come, whether ye ask it or no. But remember, Sassenach— I am your man; I serve ye as I will.”
“Do,” I said. “Please do. Jamie, I want you so!”
He seized my arse in both hands, hard enough to leave bruises, and I arched up into him, grasping, hands sliding on his sweat-slick skin.
“God, Claire, I need ye!” Rain was roaring on the tin roof now, and lightning struck close by, blue-white and sharp with ozone. We rode it together, forked and light-blind, breathless, and the thunder rolled through our bones.
WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD chapter 24 WELCOME COOLNESS IN THE HEAT, COMFORT IN THE MIDST OF WOE
Illustration credit: Starz and Safer-place