Alec decided to remember that fact for future use.
"You might be pleased with me, husband, but I'm certainly not pleased with you, you arrogant Scotsman."
The thunder in her voice surprised him as much as her retort.
"You don't want my approval?"
She didn't bother to answer his question, but the anger in her expression told him he'd misjudged her. She wasn't one to be swayed by praise. Alec nodded with satisfaction. "Tel me why you were so frightened."
Jamie shook her head. She stared down at her hands while he stared at her frown. "I asked you a question," he reminded her.
She shook her head. Alec held his patience. "A wife must always obey her husband's commands," he instructed.
"Is this another one of your Highland commandments?"
"It is," he answered with a grin.
"Why is it the rest of the world only needs to obey ten commandments to get to heaven, but you Scots have need for so many extra ones? Is it because you're all such sinners, do you suppose?"
"When you get your grit back, it's with a vengeance, isn't it?" he said.
He was smiling at her, indicating how pleased he was. She decided he was daft. "I'd like to be on my way now, Alec."
"Not until you explain why you were so frightened."
"Worried, Alec. I was worried."
"Al right, worried, then," Alec agreed, letting her have her way.
"Do you want the truth?" she asked.
"When you were fighting… well , there was this moment when I thought you were looking right at me, and I did think to myself that I must never make you angry, for I couldn't defend myself against your superior strength."
Alec had to lean forward to catch all of her explanation. She sounded so forlorn. He tried not to laugh.
"It's going to be difficult for me, Alec," she continued. "I know this will probably surprise you, but I think there will be times when I irritate you."
"It doesn't surprise me at all ."
"Why not?" she asked, looking disgruntled.
"You're irritating me now."
"Jamie, I'l never hurt you."
She stared into his eyes for a long moment. "Even when your temper gets the better of you? The Scots all have fierce tempers, Alec. Surely you'l admit to that."
"I'l never lose my temper with you. I give you my word."
"But if you do?" she asked.
"I stil won't hurt you."
She finally believed him. Jamie quit trying to pul her hands away from his grasp. "I've heard the Scots all beat their wives."
"I've heard the same about the English."
"Some do, others don't."
She nodded. "You don't?"
Alec shook his head. He was convinced she was feeling safe with him. "When we first met, I could see the apprehension in your eyes. While I believe it's good for a wife to be fearful of her husband, this unreasonable fear I saw—"
"Pray forgive my rudeness for interrupting you, but I simply must tel you it isn't at all good for a wife to be afraid of her husband. I was worried, not afraid, of course, but most women would be afraid of you.
I'm made of stronger character, however."
"Why what?" Jamie asked, confused by the way he was grinning at her and the way her heart was reacting to his devilish smile.
"Why would most women be afraid of me?"
She had to turn her gaze away from his handsome eyes before she could give him a proper answer.
"Because you happen to be a very… large man. 'Tis the truth you're the biggest warrior I've ever seen."
"Have you seen others?" he asked, hiding his exasperation.
She frowned over his question, then shook her head. "Actual y, no, I haven't."
"So it's my size that made you… worried."
"You're also as strong as a legion of soldiers put together, Alec, and you just kil ed four men," she added.
"Surely you haven't forgotten that fact."
"Only one what?" she asked, temporarily sidetracked by the sparkle in his eyes. She had the dark suspicion he wanted to laugh at her.
"I only kil ed one man," he explained. "The one who dared to touch you. Most of them aren't dead, just indisposed. Did you want me to kil all of them?"
He sounded very accommodating. "Good God, no," Jamie assured him. "But what about the man Daniel struck down when they tried to harm Mary?"
"You'l have to ask him."
"I don't want to ask him anything."
"The bastards tried to harm you, too, Jamie."
"Mary's more important."
"You actually believe this nonsense?"
"It's always been my duty to protect my sisters, Alec."
"Why haven't you asked me about the man you struck down with your dagger?" Alec asked. "Your aim was true, wife," he added, thinking to give her a little more praise. "You kil ed—"
"I don't wish to discuss it," she shouted, dropping Wildfire's reins.
Now what had he said? His gentle little wife looked as if she might faint. The woman was a mystery to him. Alec shook his head. Jamie seemed to have a true aversion to kil ing. It was another quirk in her nature, to be sure, yet at the same time, he admitted to liking that flaw.
The woman would make him soft in all his attitudes if he let her. She was going to have to get used to kil ing. It was the way of life in the rugged Highlands. Only the strongest survived. He was going to have to toughen her up, he decided, or she wouldn't make it through the first harsh winter.
"Al right, wife," Alec stated. "We won't discuss it."
The tension went out of her shoulders. Alec noticed she was a little unsteady on her mount, so he put his arm around her waist.
"What I did, I did in self-defense," Jamie told him. "If I injured that disgusting man, God will certainly understand. Mary's life was at stake."
"Aye," Alec agreed. "You did injure him."
"On the other hand, Father Charles will never understand. If he gets wind of this business, Alec, he'l have me wearing black for the rest of my days."
"The priest who married us?" he asked, total y perplexed again.
Jamie nodded. "You worry about the strangest things," Alec remarked. "'Tis a flaw in your nature, to my way of thinking."
"Oh? Then go and give Father Charles your confession, and after, tel me I worry for naught. The man's very imaginative with his penances."
Alec started laughing. He lifted Jamie into his arms and started toward his mount.
Jamie put her arms around his neck. "What are you doing?"
"You're going to ride with me."
His sigh nearly parted her hair. "Are you going to question everything I do or say?"
Jamie tilted her head back so she could see his face. Alec came to an immediate stop. The sparkle in her eyes, added to her slow, sweet smile, unsettled him.
"Will it make you angry if I do?"
"No, I'l never get angry with you."
Her smile enchanted him. "I'm wed to the most amazing man," she told him. "You never get angry or lose your temper."
"Dare you bait me, English?"
Alec's full attention was centered on her mouth. He wanted to take her lower lip between his teeth, wanted to sink his tongue inside her, to taste the sweet honey that now belonged to him. Her fingers were stroking the back of his neck, whether by intent or by accident, he couldn't discern, and her soft, full br**sts were pressed against his chest.
A man could only take so much provocation, Alec told himself.
He slowly lowered his head toward her. Jamie met him halfway.
Her mouth was just as soft as he remembered, just as arousing. It was a tender, undemanding kiss, entirely too brief, and thoroughly frustrating in Alec's opinion. She wouldn't open her mouth for him and pul ed away just as he was about to force his invasion.
She looked damned happy with herself, too. Alec didn't let her see how frustrated he was. For all her courage and remarkable beauty, she sure as certain didn't know how to kiss.
It would, of course, be his duty to instruct her. Alec smiled in anticipation.
"Thank you, Alec."
"Why are you thanking me?" he asked. He lifted her onto his saddle, then settled himself behind her in one quick motion. Her backside nestled against the junction of his thighs. She moved, apparently trying to be comfortable. He grimaced in reaction. Alec wrapped his arm around her waist, lifted her high onto his lap, and held her tightly against him.
"Well?" he asked when she didn't immediately answer him.
"I'm thanking you for your consideration."
He misunderstood her comment. " 'Tis obvious you haven't ridden much," he said. "I'l instruct you in the proper way when we're settled in."
Jamie didn't bother to correct him. If he wanted to believe she was uneducated, then she'd let him. He probably wouldn't believe she was really skil ed anyway, or that it was the new saddle giving her trouble now. If she admitted that she liked to ride bareback, as some warriors did, he would natural y conclude she wasn't much of a lady. She would let him think what he wanted. Beak had been right, she decided, for Alec was being more patient with her. He certainly wouldn't be holding her in his lap if he knew she didn't need his help. Jamie smiled to herself and leaned back against her husband. It felt good to be pampered. In time, she promised, she would set him straight. For now, however, she'd let him take charge.
Wives were a nuisance, Alec decided, but this one… she smel ed so feminine, felt so soft, so right in his arms. She kept trying to edge his hand away from the undersides of her breasts. He smiled over her timidity, certain that once he'd bedded her, she'd be rid of this shyness. He was suddenly eager to make camp. Tonight he would take her, make her his; tonight she would give herself to him.
For a Scot, he certainly had a most appealing scent. Jamie had to smile over that daft admission. In the space of one short day she'd gone from hating the man to almost liking him. God only knew she felt safe enough with him. If her emotions continued along this ill ogical course, though, she just might let him kiss her again… in another day or two.
And if he proved to be all she wanted in a husband, well , then, eventual y, after a long, satisfying courtship, of course, she might let him bed her.
It was a blessing Alec was such a patient man. She would simply explain her reticence and he'd agree to her terms.
And that was that.
They made camp an hour later, near a deep mountain-fed pool of clear water. While Daniel and Alec attended to the horses, Jamie unpacked the basket of food Agnes had thoughtful y prepared for their supper. Mary leaned against a tree trunk, watching her sister work. Jamie thought she looked quite miserable.
Jamie spread a smal blanket on the ground. She sat down on one edge, folded her skirts so that not even a hint of ankle showed, and motioned for Mary to join her.
Both she and her sister were trying to ignore their husbands. Alec and Daniel had each taken a turn washing in the pool. It hadn't bothered Jamie much at all when Daniel came strol ing back into camp without his tunic. Alec's bare chest was another matter altogether. When she glanced up and caught sight of him, her breath caught in her throat. His body was bronzed from the sun. The ripple of muscle in his shoulders and upper arms reminded her of his strength, and the dark gold hair covering his massive chest emphasized his raw masculinity. The hair tapered to his flat stomach, then disappeared beneath the waist of his black pants.
"I don't want Daniel to touch me."
Mary's whispered fear captured Jamie's attention. "It's only natural to be a little afraid," she whispered, trying to sound as if she knew what she was talking about.
"He kissed me."
Jamie smiled. Now she felt that she was on safe ground. She knew all about kissing. "It's his right to kiss you, Mary. Alec kissed me, too," she added. "Twice, if you count the wedding kiss. I thought it was very nice."
"Did he kiss you the way a man kisses a woman when he wants to mate with her?" Mary asked. "You know, did his tongue touch yours?"
Jamie didn't know what Mary was talking about, but she wasn't going to let her ignorance show. "You didn't like it, Mary?" she asked, avoiding a true answer.
"It was disgusting."
"Oh, Mary." Jamie sighed. "Perhaps, in time, you'l get to like the way Daniel kisses."
"I might have liked it if he hadn't been so angry with me," Mary muttered. "He just grabbed me and kissed me. I stil don't know why he's upset. He keeps frowning."
"You aren't imagining this anger?"
"No. will you speak to him, Jamie? Find out what has him so prickly."
Daniel walked over and sat down next to Mary before Jamie could answer her request. She nudged Mary, then motioned to the food. Mary caught the silent message and offered a portion of the food to her husband.
Alec separated himself from the threesome. He sat on the ground with his back against a fat tree trunk.
He looked very relaxed. One leg was bent at the knee, making the sleek bulge of muscle in his thigh all the more prominent.
Jamie tried not to look as nervous as she was feeling. Alec was staring at her. She told herself she just wasn't used to being the center of anyone's attention, and surely that was the only reason she was feeling so awkward.
She motioned him over to join her. Alec shook his head, then ordered her to come to him.
Jamie decided to give in. He was her husband and she supposed it was her duty to try to get along with him. She gathered a large wedge of cheese, some crusty bread, one of the three leather pouches of ale, and finally walked over to Alec.
He accepted her offering without comment. Jamie started to go back to Mary's side, but Alec wouldn't let her leave. He pul ed her down next to him, softening her fal by bracing his arm around her waist.
She couldn't help but notice how possessive his touch was. She kept her back as straight as a lance and folded her hands in her lap.