The whole Scene:
He was generally aware that he had been blessed in her beauty; even in her usual homespun, knee-deep in mud from her garden, or stained and fierce with the blood of her calling, the curve of her bones spoke to his own marrow, and those whisky eyes could make him drunk with a glance. Besides, the mad collieshangie of her hair made him laugh.
Smiling to himself even at the thought, it occurred to him that he was slightly drunk. Liquor flowed like water at the party, and there were already men leaning on old Hector’s mausoleum, glaze-eyed and slack-jawed; he caught a glimpse of someone behind the thing, too, having a piss in the shrubbery. He shook his head. There’d be a body under every bush by nightfall.
Christ. One thought of bodies under bushes, and his mind had presented him with a blindingly indecent vision of Claire, lying sprawled and laughing under one, breasts falling out of her gown and the dead leaves and dry grass the same colors as her rumpled skirts and the curly brown hair between her—He choked the thought off abruptly, bowing cordially to old Mrs. Alderdyce, the Judge’s mother.
“Your servant, ma’am.”
“Good day to ye, young man, good day.” The old lady nodded magisterially and passed by, leaning on the arm of her companion, a long-suffering young woman who gave Jamie a faint smile in response to his salute.
“Master Jamie?” One of the maids hovered beside him, holding out a tray of cups. He took one, smiling his thanks, and drank half its contents in a gulp.
He couldn’t help it. He had to turn and look after Claire. He caught no more than a glimpse of the top of her head among the crowd on the terrace—she wouldn’t wear a proper cap, of course, the stubborn wee besom, but had some foolishness pinned on instead, a scrap of lace caught up with a cluster of ribbons and rose hips. That made him want to laugh, too, and he turned back toward the willows, smiling to himself.It was seeing her in the new gown that did it. It had been months since he’d seen her dressed like a lady, narrow-waisted in silk, and her white breasts round and sweet as winter pears in the low neck of her gown. It was as though she were suddenly a different woman; one intimately familiar and yet still excitingly strange.
His fingers twitched, remembering that one rebel lock, spiraling free down her neck, and the feel of her slender nape—and the feel of her plump warm arse through her skirts, pressed against his leg. He had not had her in more than a week, what with the press of people round them, and was feeling the lack acutely.
Ever since she had shown him the sperms, he had been uncomfortably aware of the crowded conditions that must now and then obtain in his balls, an impression made forcibly stronger in situations such as this. He kent well enough that there was no danger of rupture or explosion—and yet he couldn’t help but think of all the shoving going on.
Being trapped in a seething mass of others, with no hope of escape, was one of his own personal visions of Hell, and he paused for a moment outside the screen of willow trees, to administer a brief squeeze of reassurance, which he hoped might calm the riot for a bit.
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