Their bodies dripped, but with sweat now, not rain. Outside the wind had risen, the summer storm howling in to drive away the mist. Alone in their bedchamber, Elliot had stripped off Juliana’s wet clothes, his own landing with hers on the floor. The bed rocked now with his onslaught, Elliot loving her with the fury of the storm.
“I love you!” Juliana cried.
Darkness swirled through Elliot’s mind, but it was the hot darkness of climax. Juliana’s shout wound him tighter, Elliot barely hanging on.
“I love you!” Juliana opened her eyes, her laughter ringing up to him. “I love you, Elliot McBride.”
“I love you.” The words came out in a rush, wildness washing over him. “I love you, Juliana. My lass, my own sweet lass. Sweet, holy God.”
His seed shot from him, finding home in Juliana. Elliot’s hips rocked against hers, his sweat and her honey where they joined.
The wind slammed into the house, and Elliot thrust for the last time, burying himself inside her. He groaned again, fire flickering on the edges of his vision.
Juliana skimmed her hands down Elliot’s body, touching him everywhere, her face relaxed in the warmth of passion. Her hair was a mess, curls awry, her naked body the best place his could be.
“Say it again,” he said, kissing her swollen lips.
Juliana smiled, the smile languid now, and brushed her fingertips over the base of his neck. “I love you.”
Did the words sound best when they burst out of her in passion, or said sweetly in aftermath? Or whispered into his ear while she’d held him as he’d wept?
Elliot would make her say it in all ways, in every room in the house—and on the grounds, in the dogcart, in the train when they finally went back to Edinburgh. In every place they ever were throughout their lives, Elliot would make it his quest to discover where and how the words I love you, from Juliana’s lips, sounded best.
“I love you, my wife.” He let his voice go soft. “Tha gaol agam ort.”
A smile spread across her face. “Is that what that means? I love you?”
“Then…Tha gaol agam ort. Did I say it correctly?”
Hearing the words, in beautiful Gaelic, while she lay under him in bed was undoubtedly the best of all.
“Ye did, lass. Tha gaol agam ort-fhèin. I love you too.” He kissed the line of her hair. “Thank you.”
“Mmm. For what? Letting you teach me Gaelic?”
“For all of it.”
Juliana knew what he meant. Elliot loved that he didn’t have to explain himself all the time to her. She understood.
Juliana touched the tip of his nose, and gave him her most beautiful, warm, and loving smile. “In that case, my love, my bonny husband…You’re welcome.”
FOUR WEEKS LATER
Elliot found Juliana in the morning room, July’s warm air carried on a light breeze through the window. She was elegantly beautiful in her pale lawn gown buttoned all the way up her throat, her hair dressed casually in a twist of curls.
As usual, she had a notebook open on the table beside her and a pile of letters and cards on a second table. Ink, paper, and blotting paper were spread out before her, waiting for her to cover them with her practical words.
Elliot walked into the room and closed the door behind him. “Good afternoon, my wife.”
Juliana scribbled something into her notebook and looked up at him. She took him in—his boots and kilt, a loose coat slung over a loose shirt—and flashed her beautiful smile. “Good afternoon.”
“We’re going on a picnic,” Elliot said.
“How delightful.” Juliana wrote down another note. “Who is going? You and Priti? Or Uncle McGregor and Mr. McPherson? Or—”
“You and I.”
Juliana’s brows rose, her pen stopping. “Are we? When?”
Juliana looked at him in bewilderment. “On the moment? I’ve just started my correspondence.”
“On the moment. Right now. Put down your pen.”
“But I have all this to finish.”
Elliot started for her. Before he could reach her and snatch the pen from her hand, Juliana quickly laid it down and rose to her feet.
“Very well,” she asked. “But may I ask why?”
“Why the picnic?” Elliot shrugged. “Why not?”
Juliana cast a glance at her paper-strewn tables. “I have much to do, Elliot. When I hire a secretary, perhaps I can leave whenever I like…”
Elliot caught her hands and pulled her away from the tables. “Not when you hire a secretary. Now. I’m going to sway you away from your papers, lists, and organization. I’m going to thoroughly seduce you from it, my wife. Right now.”
He saw her soften, the desire glow in her eyes, the spark of mischievousness he’d always sensed in her, even when he was slipping the frog into her pinafore pocket. She hadn’t screamed and tried to beat it away from her. She’d calmly dipped her hand into her pocket, released the poor thing into the grass, and walked away, giving Elliot a superior look over her shoulder.
Juliana still had the mischievousness, but her frantic fears that the world would condemn her if she slipped in any point had kept her from enjoying it.
Elliot wanted to teach her to find and revel in that part of herself again.
“All right then. A picnic.” Juliana turned for the bellpull. “I will have Mahindar fix us a basket. I’m sure he will make up a splendid one.”