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“Moonlight and Howling”

Below is an excerpt from Book Nine of the OUTLANDER novels. Note that there are SPOILERS…

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I was somewhere deeper than dreams, and came to the surface like a fish hauled out of water, thrashing and flapping.

"Whug—" I couldn’t remember where I was, who I was, or how to speak. Then the noise that had roused me came again, and every hair on my body stood on end.

"Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!" Words and sense came back in a rush and I flung out both hands, groping for some physical anchor.

Sheets. Mattress. Bed. I was in bed. But no Jamie, empty space beside me. I blinked like an owl, turning my head in search of him. He was standing naked at the window, bathed in moonlight. His fists were clenched and every muscle visible under his skin.

"Jamie!" He didn’t turn, or seem to hear—either my voice, or the thump and agitation of other people in the house, also roused by the howling outside. I could hear Mandy starting to wail in fear, and her parents’ voices running into each other in the rush to comfort her.

I got out of bed, and came up cautiously beside Jamie, though what I really wanted to do was dive under the covers and pull the pillow over my head. That noise… I peered past his shoulder, but bright as the moonlight was, it showed nothing in the clearing before the house that shouldn’t be there. Coming from the wood, maybe; trees and mountain were an impenetrable slab of black.

"Jamie," I said, more calmly, and wrapped a hand firmly round his forearm. "What is it, do you think? Wolves? A wolf, I mean?" I hoped there was only one of whatever was making that sound.

He started at the touch, swung round to see me and shook his head hard, trying to shake off…something.

"I—" he began, voice hoarse with sleep, and then he simply put his arms around me and drew me against him. "I thought it was a dream." I could feel him trembling a little, and held him as hard as I could. Sinister Celtic words like "ban-sidhe" and "tannasq" were fluttering round my head, whispering in my ear. Custom said that a ban-sidhe howled on the roof when someone in the house was about to die. Well…it wasn’t on the bloody roof, at least…

"Are your dreams usually that loud?" I asked, wincing at a fresh ululation. He hadn’t been out of bed long; his skin was cool, but not chilled.

"Aye. Sometimes." He gave a small, breathless laugh, and let go of me. A thunder of small feet came down the hallway, and I hastily flung myself back into his arms as the door burst open and Jem rushed in, Fanny right behind him.

"Grand-da! There’s a wolf outside! It’ll eat the piggies!"

Fanny gasped and clapped a hand to her mouth, eyes round with horror. Not at thought of the piglets’ imminent demise, but at the realization that Jamie was naked. I was shielding as much of him from view as I could with my nightgown, but there wasn’t a great deal of nightgown and there was a great deal of Jamie.

"Go back to bed, sweetheart," I said, as calmly as possible. "If it’s a wolf, Mr. Fraser will deal with it."

"Moran taing, Sassenach," he whispered out of the corner of his mouth. Thanks a lot. "Jem, throw me my plaid, aye?"

Jem, to whom a naked grandfather was a routine sight, fetched the plaid from its hook by the door.

"Can I come and help kill the wolf?" he asked hopefully. "I could shoot it. I’m better than Da, he says so!"

"It’s no a wolf," Jamie said briefly, swathing his loins in faded tartan. "The two of ye go and tell Mandy it’s all right, before she brings the roof down about our ears." The howling had grown louder, and so had Mandy’s, in hysterical response. From the look on her face, Fanny was all set to join them.

Back to Diana’s Book Nine webpage.

Diana posted this excerpt as one of her "Daily Lines" on June 30, 2015 at 2:01 a.m. (PT), on her Facebook page .

This webpage was last updated by Diana’s Webmistress on Sunday, October 25, 2015 at 10:44 p.m. (PT).