“Sassenach, I _had_ to,” he said again, softly. “I’m that sorry.”
“I know,” I said. “I know you did.” My lips were stiff. “I—you—I’m sorry, too.”
I was trying to fasten the dozen tiny buttons that closed the bodice of my gown, but my hands shook so badly that I couldn’t even grasp them. I stopped trying and dug my hair-brush out of the bag he’d brought me from the Chestnut Street house.
He made a small sound in his throat and took it out of my hand. He threw it onto our makeshift couch and put his arms around me, holding me tight with my face buried in his chest. The cloth of his new uniform smelled of fresh indigo, walnut hulls and fuller’s-earth; it felt strange and stiff against my face. I couldn’t stop shaking.
“Talk to me, _a nighean_,” he whispered into my tangled hair. “I’m afraid, and I dinna want to feel so verra much alone just now. Speak to me.”
“Why has it always got to be _you_?” I blurted into his chest.
That made him laugh, a little shakily, and I realized that all the trembling wasn’t coming from me.
“It’s no just me,” he said, and stroked my hair. “There are a thousand other men readying themselves today—more—who dinna want to do it, either.”
“I know,” I said again. My breathing was a little steadier. “I know.” I turned my face to the side in order to breathe, and all of a sudden began to cry, quite without warning.
“I’m sorry,” I gasped. “I don’t mean—I don’t want t-to make it h-harder for you. I—I—oh, Jamie, when I knew you were alive–I wanted so much to go home. To go home with you.”
His arms tightened hard round me. He didn’t speak, and I knew it was because he couldn’t.
“So did I,” he whispered at last. “And we will, _a nighean_. I promise ye.”
This excerpt is from WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD. It was posted on September 14, 2013.