Jamie had come to stand beside me at the window. Staring absently out at the driving rain, he said, “There was another reason. The main one.”
“Reason?” I said stupidly.
“Why I married you.”
“Which was?” I don’t know what I expected him to say, perhaps some further revelation of his family’s contorted affairs. What he did say was more of a shock, in its way.
“Because I wanted you.” He turned from the window to face me. “More than I ever wanted anything in my life,” he added softly.
I continued staring at him, dumbstruck. Whatever I had been expecting, it wasn’t this. Seeing my openmouthed expression, he continued lightly. “When I asked my Da how ye knew which was the right woman, he told me when the time came, I’d have no doubt. And I didn’t. When I woke in the dark under that tree on the road to Leoch, with you sitting on my chest, cursing me for bleeding to death, I said to myself, ‘Jamie Fraser, for all ye canna see what she looks like, and for all she weighs as much as a good draft horse, this is the woman.’ ”
I started toward him, and he backed away, talking rapidly. “I said to myself, ‘She’s mended ye twice in as many hours, me lad; life amongst the MacKenzies being what it is, it might be as well to wed a woman as can stanch a wound and set broken bones.’ And I said to myself, ‘Jamie, lad, if her touch feels so bonny on your collarbone, imagine what it might feel like lower down…’ ”
He dodged around a chair. “Of course, I thought it might ha’ just been the effects of spending four months in a monastery, without benefit of female companionship, but then that ride through the dark together” — he paused to sigh theatrically, neatly evading my grab at his sleeve — “with that lovely broad arse wedged between my thighs” — he ducked a blow aimed at his left ear and sidestepped, getting a low table between us — “and that rock-solid head thumping me in the chest” — a small metal ornament bounced off his own head and went clanging to the floor — “I said to myself…”
“Jamie…I said…for all she’s a Sassenach bitch…with a tongue like an adder’s…with a bum like that…what does it matter if she’s a f-face like a sh-sh-sheep?”
I tripped him neatly and landed on his stomach with both knees as he hit the floor with a crash that shook the house.
“You mean to tell me that you married me out of love?” I demanded. He raised his eyebrows, struggling to draw in breath.
“Have I not…just been…saying so?”
Grabbing me round the shoulders with one arm, he wormed the other hand under my skirt and proceeded to inflict a series of merciless pinches on that part of my anatomy he had just been praising.
Returning to pick up her embroidery basket, Jenny sailed in at this point and stood eyeing her brother with some amusement. “And what are you up to, young Jamie me lad?” she inquired, one eyebrow up.
“I’m makin’ love to my wife,” he panted, breathless between giggling and fighting.
“Well, ye could find a more suitable place for it,” she said, raising the other eyebrow. “That floor’ll give ye splinters in your arse.”