London on 3 September 1939 is in upheaval. War is inevitable. Into this turmoil steps Kate Sheridan newly arrived from Ireland to live with her aunt and uncle and look for work. When she meets Flight Lieutenant Charlie Butler sparks fly, but he is a notorious womaniser. Should she ignore all the warnings and get involved with a ladies man whose life will be in daily danger?
Charlie Butler has no intention of getting involved with a woman. But when he meets Kate his resolve is shattered. Should he allow his heart to rule his head and fall for a nineteen year old Irish girl while there is a war to fight?
Private conflicts and personal doubts are soon overshadowed. Will the horrors of war bring Kate and Charlie together or tear them apart?
He crossed the street and was passing number 26 when he heard feet on the gravel. He peered up the drive and saw Kate. She was wearing trousers, like Katharine Hepburn, and seemed to be walking off her dinner like him. This was too good an opportunity to miss, so he threw his cigarette away.
“Hello?” he called. “Merry Christmas.”
She spun around, brown curly hair flying about, and stared at him in fright.
“Sorry.” He smiled. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“It’s all right,” she replied in a peculiar accent. It wasn’t very Irish but it wasn’t quite English either. The “all” was very English, but the “right” was definitely Irish. Strange.
“I’m Charlie Butler.” He introduced himself, taking off his cap. “I live at number 25.”
“Oh, you’re Clive’s brother?” she asked.
“That’s right. I got back just before dinner. A week’s leave.” He pointed to his uniform then to the winged badge on his cap. “RAF.”
“Yes. Bob’s home, too. There doesn’t seem to be much happening, does there?” She clapped a hand over her mouth then gave him an apologetic smile. “I shouldn’t be talking about the war. Sorry.”
“It doesn’t matter.” He stared at her face. She was wearing a lot less make-up than before—little or no powder, and her lips weren’t as red. Even so, she was still very striking, with lovely blue-grey eyes to match his uniform.
“Oh.” She laughed. “I’m sorry, I’m Kate Sheridan. Helen and Bob are my aunt and uncle. Barbara’s my grandmother, and Toby’s my cousin.” She pointed to the house. “This is my mother’s old home, she lives in Ireland now.”
“Hence your accent.” He smiled.
“What? Oh, yes. Is it so strange? I keep getting asked the time just so people can hear me talk. Most people think I’m Welsh.”
She nodded. “I’ve given up correcting people, and I’ve seen so many ‘No Irish Need Apply’ signs, that I’ve used my ‘Welsh’ accent to get myself a job at long last.”
“Where?” He couldn’t believe someone would refuse her a job, but he had seen the signs, too.
“I do the bookkeeping in Graham’s The Butchers, but I’m thinking of handing in my notice in the New Year.”
“Don’t you like it?”
Her face contorted in indecision. “Well, yes, and no. I like the actual job, but it’s the butcher himself, Mr. Graham. He’s er…”
“What? Pestering you?” Charlie grimaced. How dare the randy old fool! Still, he reflected, he couldn’t really blame him.
“Yes. It’s just little things, but I don’t like it. So I’ve decided that if he does it again, I’m leaving, and I’ll tell him I’m Irish.” She sighed. “I’ll need to look for a job again and it took me ages to get this one. I might join up,” she mused.
“Is that all it is to you—a job?” he asked rather harshly. She was Irish, after all, and the Irish were neutral. “It isn’t, I can tell you.”
She flushed and kicked out at the gravel. “I know, I do read the newspapers. It’s strange, though, isn’t it? You and Bob, both in the RAF?”
“I suppose so, but we’re hardly colleagues. I’m a pilot, I fly Hurricanes. Bob’s one of the big wigs at Fighter Command.”
“Oh,” she replied and frowned as if she hadn’t known that. “What exactly do the WAAF do?”
“The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force? How long have you got?” He glanced at his watch. It was nearly three o’clock. “The king’s Christmas message!”
“Do you want to listen to it?” she asked. “There’s a wireless in our shelter around the back.” She pointed to the side of the house. “Bob rigged up an aerial because the metal was blocking the signal. Come on.”
He followed, watching her as she walked. She wore flat-heeled shoes and his gaze moved upwards, cursing the grey trousers and black knee-length coat. I bet she has a great figure, he thought, and observed eagerly as she bent over to go into the shelter. His eyebrows shot up as she slid on the flattened grass and he grabbed her coat to stop her toppling head-first into the doorway. He pulled her back against him, throwing an arm around her waist, only just managing to stay upright himself.
“Are you hurt?” He turned her around and she clasped his shoulders.
“No, I’m all right.”
“Are you sure?” Meeting her eyes, he gazed at her beautiful long eyelashes. Their bodies were pressing snugly against each other and he didn’t want to move or let her go.
“Yes. I feel such a fool. I didn’t realise the grass was slippery.”
“Maybe a proper path or some gravel?”
“Yes, I’ll mention it to Bob,” she replied, sliding her hands down his arms, and he had to release her. “Thank you.”
She went into the shelter, turned the wireless on, then sat on the bottom bunk bed. On impulse, he sat down beside her, and they listened as King George VI’s slow and deliberate voice spoke to them.
“A new year is at hand. We cannot tell what it will bring. If it brings peace, how thankful we shall be. If it brings us continued struggle we shall remain undaunted. In the meantime, I feel we may all find a message of comfort in the lines which, in my closing words, I would like to say to you: I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.’”
The words were so simple yet so profound that Charlie felt a tingling in his fingers as he switched the wireless off. Beside him, he felt Kate shiver.
“Are you cold?” he asked her.
“No. He has a bad stammer, doesn’t he, your king?”
“Yes, I believe so.”
“Then it was very brave of him to speak like that. I suppose we’ll all have to be brave, in time.”
Charlie looked around at her. Her eyes were fixed solemnly on the open door of the shelter and her lips were pursed a little.
“Yes, I suppose so,” he replied, hoping she wasn’t blessed with second sight.
“So,” she added in a brighter tone, “what exactly do the WAAF do?”
“Oh.” He leaned forward, fiddling with his cap. “Hundreds of things. They operate teleprinters which carry all kinds of things from combat reports to orders for equipment and supplies. They work in ‘R’, which is short for receiver huts, at Chain Home Stations, being the ones who keep an eye on aircraft, both enemy and friendly. They pass the information to the filter room and it is plotted on the map table.”
“Keeping an eye on all of you.”
“And all of them.”
“It sounds very interesting.”
“It’s very hard work. You have to be alert the whole time. Are you sure you want that?”
“I’m not afraid of hard work,” she told him, sounding a little indignant.
“No. Well, think about it.”
“And,” he added. “Would you think about something else too?”
“Oh?” She looked around at him fully.
Please say yes. He began to cross his fingers.
“W-would you allow me t-to take you t-to the pictures?” To his surprise, he found himself stammering.
To his consternation, she laughed. “Ten minutes ago you didn’t even know I existed and now you’re asking me out. Are all pilots like you?”
No, he thought, some are even worse. “I don’t really know, I’ve never asked any of them out.”
She frowned at him for a moment, then dissolved into giggles.
Please say yes.
“Yes, all right. When?”
“Oh?” He forced himself to think clearly. “The day after tomorrow? Eight o’clock?”
“Good. I’ll pick you up in the car.”
She nodded. “Thank you, Charlie.”
She had an odd way of saying his name, really rolling the ‘r’. He smiled. “I’ll see you then, then.”
She laughed and they left the shelter. “‘Bye, Charlie.”
He waited until he was out on the pavement before clenching his fists in delight. His feet hardly touched the ground crossing the street and going back inside.
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“An Emotional and Poignant Romance – Beautifully Done.” Tina Williams at A Reader’s Review Blog
“Excellent glimpse into life during World War II…” HR Duby at Paranormal Romance and Authors that Rock
“True lovers of historical romance will be in their element and begging for more.” Liberty Ann Ireland at Cuddles Please
“…an engrossing and in depth read with likeable and believable characters set amongst a time of history that I found fascinating. I would definitely recommend this to others.” Mandie at Foxylutely Books
“Lorna Peel did a wonderful job writing a story that keeps the reader engaged and I enjoyed every minute of the book.” Carrie at Just One More Chapter
“I really enjoyed the story and was absorbed from the beginning in the way Kate and Charlie’s lives progressed. I genuinely cared about what happened to them, and testament to the author’s storytelling skill, I read the book almost in one sitting, as I wanted to find out how the story progressed. Well worth reading if you enjoy well written WW2 historical romances.” Jo at JaffaReadsToo