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Their passionate encounter happened long ago by whatever measurement Claire Randall took. Two decades before, she had traveled back in time and into the arms of a gallant eighteenth-century Scot named Jamie Fraser. Then she returned to her own century to bear his child, believing him dead in the tragic battle of Culloden. Yet his memory has never lessened its hold on her... and her body still cries out for him in her dreams.
Then Claire discovers that Jamie survived. Torn between returning to him and staying with their daughter in her own era, Claire must choose her destiny. And as time and space come full circle, she must find the courage to face the passion and pain awaiting her...the deadly intrigues raging in a divided Scotland... and the daring voyage into the dark unknown that can reunite or forever doom her timeless love.
870 pages, Paperback
First published December 1, 1993
"Is that you, Geordie?" he asked, not turning around. He was dressed in shirt and breeches, and had a small tool of some kind in his hand, with which he was doing something to the innards of the press. "Took ye long enough. Did ye get the--"
"It isn't Geordie," I said. My voice was higher than usual.
"It's me," I said. "Claire."
He straightened up very slowly. He wore his hair long; a thick tail of a deep, rich auburn sparked with copper. I had time to see that the neat ribbon that tied it back was green, and then he turned around.
He stared at me without speaking. A tremor ran down the muscular throat as he swallowed, but still he didn't say anything.
It was the same broad, good-humored face, dark blue eyes aslant the high, flat cheekbones of a Viking, a long mouth curling at the ends as though always on the verge of smiling. The lines surrounding eyes and mouth were deeper, or course. The nose had changed just a bit. The knife-edge bridge was slightly thickened near the base by the ridge of an old, healed fracture. It made him look fiercer, I thought, but lessened that air of aloof reserve, and lent his appearance a new rough charm.
I walked through the flap in the counter, seeing nothing but that unblinking stare. I cleared my throat.
"When did you break your nose?"
The corners of his wide mouth lifted up slightly.
"About three minutes after I last saw ye-Sassenach."
There was a hesitation, almost a question in the name. There was no more than a foot between us. I reached out tentatively and touched the tiny line of the break, where the bone pressed white against the bronze skin.
He flinched backward as though an electric spark had arced between us, and the calm expression shattered.
"You're real," he whispered. I had thought him pale already. Now all vestiges of color drained from his face. His eyes rolled up and he slumped to the floor in a shower of papers and oddments that had been sitting on the press--he fell rather gracefully for such a large man. I thought abstractedly.
It was only a faint; his eyelids were beginning to flutter by the time I knelt beside him and loosened the stock at his throat. I had no doubts at all by now, but still I looked automatically as I pulled the heavy linen away. It was there, of course, the small triangular scare just above his collarbone, left by the knife of Captain Jonathan Randall, Esquire, of His Majesty's Eighth Dragoons.
His normal healthy color was returning. I sat cross-legged on the floor and hoisted his head onto my thigh. His hair felt thick and soft in my hand. His eyes opened.
"That bad, is it?" I said, smiling down at him with the same words he had used to me on the day of our wedding, holding my head in his lap, twenty-odd years before.
"That bad, and worse, Sassenach," he answered, mouth twitching with something almost a smile. He sat up abruptly, staring at me.
"God in heaven, you are real!"
"So are you.: I lifted my chin to look up at him. "I th-thought you were dead." I had meant to speak lightly, but my voice betrayed me. The tears spilled down my cheeks, only to soak into the rough cloth of his shirt as he pulled me hard against him.
I shook so bad that it was some time before I realized that he was shaking, too, and for the same reason. I don't know how long we sat there on the dusty floor, crying in each other's arms with the longing of twenty years spilling down our faces.
"If you say it," I said, "I'll have to believe you."
"You will?" He sounded faintly astonished. "Why?"
"Because you're an honest man, Jamie Fraser." I said, smiling so I wouldn't cry. "And may the Lord have mercy on you for it."
"Only you," he said, so softly I could barely hear him. "To worship ye with my body, give ye all the service of my hands. To give ye my name, and all my heart and soul with it. Only you. Because ye will not let me lie--and yet ye love me."
I did touch him then.
"Jamie," I said softly, and laid my hand on his arm. "You aren't alone any more."
He turned then and took me by the arms, searching my face.
"I swore to you," I said. "When we were married. I didn't mean it then, but I swore-and now I mean it." I turned his hand over in both of mine, feeling the thing, smooth skin at the base of his wrist, where the pulse beat under my fingers, where the blade of his dirk had cut his flesh once, and spilled his blood to mingle with mine forever.
I pressed my own wrist against his, pulse to pulse, heartbeat to heartbeat.
"Blood of my blood . . ." I whispered.
"Bone of my bone." His whisper was deep and husky. He knelt quite suddenly befor eme, and put his folded hands in mine; the gesture a Highlander makes when swearing loyalty to his chieftain.
"I give ye my spirit," he said, head bent over our hands.
"Til our life shall be done," I said softly. "But it isn't done yet, Jamie, is it?"
Then he rose and took the shift from me, and I lay back on the narrow bed naked, and pulled him down to me through the soft yellow light, and took him home, and home, and home again, and we were neither one of us alone.
“It has always been forever, for me, Sassenach”
“Do ye not understand?"he said, in near desparation. "I would lay the world at your feet, Claire-and I have nothing to give ye!"
He honestly thought it mattered.
“For so many years, for so long, I have been so many things, so many different men. But here," he said, so softly I could barely hear him, "here in the dark, with you… I have no name.”
I shook so that it was some time before I realized that he was shaking too, and for the same reason. I don't know how long we sat there on the dusty floor, crying in each others arms with the longing of twenty years spilling down our faces.
"Do ye want me?" he whispered. "Sassenach, will ye take me - and risk the man that I am, for the sake of the man ye knew?”
“Only you," he said, so softly I could barely hear him. "To worship ye with my body, give ye all the service of my hands. To give ye my name, and all my heart and soul with it. Only you. Because ye will not let me lie--and yet ye love me.”