In a novel featuring Outlander hero Jamie Fraser in a major role, #1 bestselling author Diana Gabaldon continues the Lord John series. Jamie Fraser, a Scottish Jacobite officer paroled as a prisoner of war on an estate in the Lake District, finds the numbness of his days disturbed. First, by dreams of his dead wife, then by the presence of the small son he cannot claim. Much more disturbing is the sudden reappearance in his life of Lord John Grey, with a summons that will take him - again - from everything he values. A legacy from a dead friend has led Lord John and his brother Hal in pursuit of a corrupt army officer, along a trail of politics and murder. The matter becomes critical when the trail leads into Ireland, with a baffling message left in the tongue called ""Erse"" - the language spoken by Scottish Highlanders. Jamie is forced to help the Greys, in order to guard his own secrets.
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November 29, 2011
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Excerpt from The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon
1 April Fool Helwater, the Lake District April 1, 1760 It was so cold out, he thought his cock might break off in his hand--�if he could find it. The thought passed through his sleep-�mazed mind like one of the small, icy drafts that darted through the loft, making him open his eyes.
He could find it now; had waked with his fist wrapped round it and desire shuddering and twitching over his skin like a cloud of midges. The dream was wrapped just as tightly round his mind, but he knew it would fray in seconds, shredded by the snores and farts of the other grooms. He needed her, needed to spill himself with the feel of her touch still on him.
Hanks stirred in his sleep, chuckled loudly, said something incoherent, and fell back into the void, murmuring, "Bugger, bugger, bugger . . ."
Jamie said something similar under his breath in the Gaelic and flung back his blanket. Damn the cold.
He made his way down the ladder into the half-�warm, horse-�smelling fug of the barn, nearly falling in his haste, ignoring a splinter in his bare foot. He hesitated in the dark, still urgent. The horses wouldn't care, but if they noticed him, they'd make enough noise, perhaps, to wake the others.
Wind struck the barn and went booming round the roof. A strong chilly draft with a scent of snow stirred the somnolence, and two or three of the horses shifted, grunting and whickering. Overhead, a murmured " 'ugger" drifted down, accompanied by the sound of someone turning over and pulling the blanket up round his ears, defying reality.
Claire was still with him, vivid in his mind, solid in his hands. He could imagine that he smelled her hair in the scent of fresh hay. The memory of her mouth, those sharp white teeth . . . He rubbed his nipple, hard and itching beneath his shirt, and swallowed.
His eyes were long accustomed to the dark; he found the �vacant loose box at the end of the row and leaned against its boards, cock already in his fist, body and mind yearning for his lost wife.
He'd have made it last if he could, but he was fearful lest the dream go altogether, and he surged into the memory, groaning. His knees gave way in the aftermath and he slid slowly down the boards of the box into the loose piled hay, shirt rucked round his thighs and his heart pounding like a kettledrum.
Lord, that she might be safe was his last conscious thought. She and the child.
He plunged at once into a sleep so deep and luxurious that when a hand shook him by the shoulder, he didn't spring to his feet but merely stirred sluggishly, momentarily befuddled by the prickle of hay on his bare legs. His instincts came back to life in sudden alarm and he flung himself over, getting his feet under him in the same motion that put his back against the wall of the loose box.
There was a gasp from the small form in the shadows before him, and he classified it as feminine just in time to restrain himself from reflexive violence.
"Who's that?" he demanded. He spoke low, his voice hoarse with sleep, and the form swayed back a little farther, exhibiting dubiousness.
He was in no mood for foolishness and shot out a hand, grabbing her by the arm. She squealed like a pig and he let go as though she were red-�hot, cursing himself mentally as he heard the startled grunts and rustlings of his fellow grooms overhead.
"What the devil's that?" Crusoe demanded, in a voice like a clogged pipe. Jamie heard him clear his throat and spit thickly into his half-�filled pot, then bellow down the ladder, "Who's there?"
The shadowy form was making wild motions, beseeching him to be silent. The horses were half awake, snorting with mild confusion but not panicked; they were used to Crusoe shouting in the night. He did it whenever he had the money to buy drink, waking from nightmares in a cold sweat, shrieking at his demons.
Jamie rubbed a hand over his face, trying to think. If Crusoe and Hanks didn't already know he was gone, they'd notice in the next few seconds.
"Rats in the feed," he shouted up. "I killed one." It was a feeble story; there were always rats in the feed, and no one would have stirred a finger to investigate their noises in the dead of night, let alone hunt them in the dark.
Hanks made a sound of disgust, rustling his bedclothes. "The Scotchman's buggering the horses again," he said conversationally to Crusoe, though clearly speaking loud enough to be heard below. "Ought to speak to his lordship about it."