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A Pair of Wings

A Pair of Wings

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A Pair of Wings

évaluations:
5/5 (1 évaluation)
Longueur:
247 pages
3 heures
Sortie:
Dec 27, 2014
ISBN:
9781311023308
Format:
Livre

Description

Colleen Vaughn, a US Army nurse, has experienced the effects of war firsthand. When she’s told her fiancé’s been killed in action, she vows never to fall in love again. Until she meets a pair of haunting blue eyes and dimples. Only problem is–he’s another pilot flying into danger.
As a P-51 pilot, Captain Daniel Ryan has one mission: protect the bombers and get back alive. The last thing he needs is to fall in love. Soon he wonders just who is more dangerous – the enemy firing back at him or the woman who fights the love they share.

Sortie:
Dec 27, 2014
ISBN:
9781311023308
Format:
Livre

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A Pair of Wings - Lorna K. Grant

A Pair of Wings

Lorna K. Grant

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

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Vinspire Publishing

www.vinspirepublishing.com

A Pair of Wings

Copyright ©2005 Vurlee Toomey

Cover illustration copyright © 2013 Elaina Lee

Printed and bound in the United States of America. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system-except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a magazine, newspaper, or on the Web-without permission in writing from the publisher. For information, please contact Vinspire Publishing, LLC, 107 Clearview Circle , Goose Creek, SC 29445.

All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all incidents are pure invention.

ISBN: 0-9770107-1-6

PUBLISHED BY VINSPIRE PUBLISHING

www.vinspirepublishing.com

Thanks to Donna and Jamie for keeping me BICHOK and helping me achieve this dream. Here’s to late nights, 3:00 a.m. brainstorming sessions and Southern Peaches at Lucille’s. Two down, one to go!

Prologue

Christmas Eve 2005

North Platte, Nebraska

Colleen pulled the lace curtain aside and stared out the window.

Snow fell in a hush, concealing the ground beneath its undisturbed whiteness. Hundreds of lights from Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard reflected off the earth-hugging clouds and cast an orange glow over the small Nebraska town. Street lamps became spotlights as they lit snow-covered objects scattered in the front yards along the quiet street. Crystallized flakes glimmered like thousands of diamonds strewn across the frozen lawns. The beauty of the moment brought a tear to her eye.

What a shame that by tomorrow morning the crisp, virgin snow would be muddy brown, foot trodden and reduced to slush.

A solitary tear slid down her face. Nevertheless, it was the cycle of life, was it not? Things once beautiful and dear became tattered memories in the faded yellow scrapbook of the mind. Reflected in the frost-covered window, she remembered how her own eyes were once filled with dreams and sparkled with the brilliance of youth. The image faded and left behind the harsh reality of aged eyes now hollow with grief and despair.

Snap out of it. It’s Christmas Eve, for Christ’s sake. A small, brittle laugh escaped her at the irony of her thought.

Colleen never used to be this cynical and forsaken. She once believed in love and happiness for all eternity. But that belief withered with Daniel’s death. Tears gathered in her eyes as she thought of the love of her life. They would have been together for sixty-one years.

God, how she missed him!

He was in her heart ever since that war-torn year of 1944. She had been a nurse, and Daniel a P-51 pilot. They had met while on a three-day pass to London and stole as many moments together as possible. The times were precarious, and death always close by.

The Allies launched the Normandy invasion, and both had duties to perform and orders to follow. Daniel flew combat missions and fighter escort for the Flying Fortresses over enemy territory. Three days after D-Day, her unit followed those brave boys across the Channel and waded ashore at Utah Beach.

The pain and grief evoked by memories of wounded cries and whispered pleas were too much for her, even now, after all these years. She pushed away from the window. The bitter cold seeped through the glass and reached out, chilling her soul. Not even the burning flames in the fireplace could warm the dark crevasse those recollections opened.

She did not want to relive that nightmare tonight of all nights. It was their night, and one she vowed to honor always.

The clock on the mantel chimed the hour of eleven. The low melody echoed through the silent, empty house and reverberated through Colleen’s heart and soul. They, too, were silent and empty. The revelation saddened her. It had been that way since Daniel’s death.

She gazed at the white lights of the Christmas tree through watery eyes. The twinkling glass wings of an angel caught her attention. It was their guardian angel; the one he had given her. The remembrances it evoked were bittersweet, and she smiled even as she cried.

The peal of St. Patrick’s church bells pulled Colleen from her reverie, and she glanced at the clock. It was time for the midnight Christmas Eve service. With a deep sigh, she straightened her shoulders and lifted her chin. This night held special meaning for the world not just for her alone, no matter how close she held it to her heart.

The crunch of snow beneath her feet echoed through the quiet winter night as Colleen walked through the church’s parking lot. Sounds of an occasional passing car swishing through the snow-lined streets mingled with the muted strains of music from the chapel. The lonesome wail of a train whistle moaned through the cold, night air. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the whisper of the snowflakes that brushed against her face, soft kisses from angels’ wings. The smell of burning pine and cedar logs drifted on the slight breeze. She inhaled the smoky wood scent and opened her eyes.

With one last look at the winter scene around her, she mounted the steps and crossed to the church’s door. The arched entry of the chapel prompted a flood of memories. She was no longer in the wintry Nebraska town on Christmas Eve. In her mind, it was March 1944, and she was in a small abbey in London.

Chapter One

March 1944

London

Hey, Vaughn, hurry up, will ya?

Colleen lifted her gaze from the crypt’s plaque and smiled at her group of friends. All four women wore their Class A’s, and it felt good to get out of their nurse uniforms for a day. The olive-drab color did not flatter any of them; but then again, the Army was not known for its fashion sense. It felt wonderful to put on stockings and pumps, to fix their hair and apply more than just lipstick. In other words, it felt good to be just a woman again. She smiled.

What a group they made. Melanie, the petite Southern Belle from Atlanta, out-shone them all with her white-blonde hair and twinkling blue eyes. Vivian, a Texas native born and bred, garnered many second looks, though no one knew if it was because of her striking red hair and violet eyes, or her nearly six foot tall stature. Ruth called Brooklyn home, and her jet-black hair and moss green eyes gave a softness to her brusque New York City manners. Their backgrounds certainly differed from her own in rural Iowa. Though different in looks and personality, they shared a strong bond. They were sisters in spirit. They were Army nurses.

Come on, girls! How can we meet tall, dark and handsomes standing in a church? Ruth asked. Let’s hit some pubs and dance halls, and see what we can find. This was their first three-day pass since they arrived in England several months ago from the field hospital in North Africa, and restlessness skittered along their nerves.

Ruth! We’re in a church! Can’t you control your feline instincts for a few hours? Colleen teased.

No, I cannot! Ruth placed her hands on her hips and tapped her foot.

The band of girls laughed at her antics. They counted on Ruth to sniff out the local male attractions. And London was full of both men and attractions.

Colleen caught the disapproving glare of a clergyman and pulled the giggling nurses out the door.

Come on, let’s go, Ruth said. One of the medics told me about this dancehall called Muscle Palace.

Can’t we find a bite to eat first, Ruthie? Melanie asked, her southern drawl whisper soft.

Yeah, Mel’s right. Besides, I’m hungry and want something a whole lot better than Sgt. Kettrick’s mystery-rationed-meat special. Vivian wiggled her eyebrows. I heard the Savoy is swank. They have tons of men there, Ruth.

Oh, all right. The Savoy it is.

The four nurses interlocked arms and headed for the legendary hotel. With gasoline a precious ration, walking was the best transportation. Besides, as the porter at the rail station told them earlier, on foot was the only way to see the town.

Colleen looked around as much as the tugging arms of the other three allowed her. She wanted to take in all of London’s sights and sounds. As the war raged on, who knew when they would get another chance like this or what would be left standing in the morning.

Everything passed quickly as Ruth, Vivian and Melanie pulled her along the crowded streets. The sky darkened as day quickly faded. Without streetlights and with all the windows covered per blackout regulations, Colleen was afraid they might get lost in such a large city. But she trusted Ruth’s city street smarts to get them around town.

Shadows from damaged buildings fell across their path, and the wreckage from the German bombs became more sinister in dusk’s fading light. The once vibrant and proud structures were reduced to scarred, skeletal remains. Gutted dwellings threatened to tumble to the ground at the slightest breeze. Pictures defiantly hung on blackened sidewalls, while the front facades lay scattered near the street.

The sulfuric smell of burnt and decaying buildings lingered in the cool night air, accented by the ever-present scent of death. Boarded-up windows and doors stood as silent testimony to the destruction rained upon the city and its inhabitants by the German Luftwaffe. Yet the ruins of the city stood defiant, as did England herself.

Laughter drifted out from the various doors they passed, the sandbags piled high around the openings. Even the war did not dampen the Brits’ spirit for too long. Colleen wondered if Hitler realized he had managed only to strengthen their resolve, not intimidate them.

They headed down the street, passing men and women in various military uniforms. Few civilians seemed to be around. Even the elderly men wore the uniforms of the Home Guard, keeping the home front safe and making certain everyone followed wartime regulations. Colleen noticed disparaging looks cast their way and worried they had broken some unspoken English code for unescorted females, but nothing from their orientation came to mind.

Hey, Viv, why does everyone keep staring at us?

I dunno. Think we should worry?

Just ask, Ruth said and shrugged. If we’re doing something wrong, better to find out now.

Melanie nodded. Ruthie’s got a point, y’all.

Fine, then, Mel. Colleen grinned at her friend. You ask the next person who looks crossways at us. If anyone can get away with it, you can.

Melanie flipped one long curl over her shoulder and pouted her lips. What’s that suppose to mean? she crooned.

Ruth shook her head. It means, silly, that with your blonde hair and Georgia drawl, no one would get mad if you commit a faux pas.

Oh, that. Melanie giggled. Every decent southern woman worth a grain of salt learns to bat her lashes and crook her little finger before she ever learns to crawl or talk.

The girls laughed and continued down the street. A few blocks later, a couple of elderly women in the blue and red uniform of the Women’s Voluntary Service eyed them with raised brows and a tsking click of their tongues.

Excuse me, ma’am? Melanie stopped and backtracked to catch the women.

Aye, luv, the older of the two women answered. She looked at her friend, then back at the nurses. Can we help you?

My friends and I were just wonderin’ why everyone keeps lookin’ at us so strange. Are we doin’ something wrong?

The two British women looked at each other and laughed. Sorry, miss, didn’t mean to laugh. It’s just that you Yanks are so blunt, the older one said.

I am no Yankee, ma’am, Melanie sniffed. I’ll have y’all know that my great grand-daddy fought at the side of Robert E. Lee himself in the War of Northern Aggression.

Oh, God, here she goes again. Ruth covered her eyes and slowly shook her head.

Mel, she didn’t say ‘Yankee’, she said ‘Yank’. It’s what they call all Americans, Vivian reminded her.

Oh, silly me. Melanie laughed and placed her hands on her hips. I can’t get used to being called a ‘Yank’. It’s so uncivilized!

She turned back to the uniformed women. But are we doing anything wrong, ma’am? she asked in that lilting voice, full of innocence and confusion.

No, miss. It’s the stockings.

Our stockings? Colleen tilted her head and glanced down at her legs. I don’t understand.

The younger of the two women gave them a wry grin. We haven’t seen silk stockings in years. She shrugged one shoulder and then gestured to the silk-clad legs of the nurses. It’s a surprise to see them again, that’s all.

Oh, thank Heaven that’s all it is. Colleen sighed with relief.

The tension left Vivian’s features, and she smiled at the Volunteers. Thanks for answering our questions.

Think nothin’ of it, luv, the older woman replied, and then waved as they continued down the street.

Now I feel silly, y’all, Melanie said.

Yeah, Vivian chimed in. And we thought we had it rough.

Have you guys forgotten North Africa? That wasn’t exactly a picnic, Ruth pointed out.

A brief silence fell between them. Memories of fallen soldiers and screeching German bombs assailed Colleen’s mind. The invasion of North Africa was their initiation into the experience of combat wounds and field hospitals under canvas tents. They learned first hand that war was hell for more than just the soldiers.

Come on, guys, Colleen cleared the memories from her mind. Let’s get something to eat, and then dancing.

Here, here. the girls cheered.

A few blocks later, the nurses found themselves in front of the Savoy. They waited while a group of GI’s has exited the building, then they entered through the paint-covered revolving glass doors. The brightness of the lobby contrasted starkly with the enforced blackout of the streets. The opulent chandeliers cast rainbows across the walls and floors. Crystal goblets clinked amid the muted din of numerous conversations taking place at once. Mouth-watering aromas of fresh herbs, savory meats and a touch of cinnamon and chocolate lingered in the air. She found it hard to believe a war raged on outside with what seemed like such decadence inside.

Colleen swiveled her head and took in the extravagant interior. Entranced with the magical world they entered, she didn’t pay attention to where she walked. Vivian tugged at her arm, leading her in the correct direction. Suddenly, she slammed into something solid and immovable.

Oomph, she exhaled as she lost contact with Vivian.

Strong hands moved around her waist – strong, male hands. Electric tingles raced through her body. The lapels of a US Army uniform lay in her direct line of vision. The jacket felt coarse beneath her over sensitive palms, and she swore she felt every thread of fiber. A scent of pure masculinity mixed with a smoky musk and a hint of tobacco invaded her senses. Her heart pounded and her body trembled.

Her gaze traveled up his broad chest. I’m sorry, I wasn’t... She found herself suddenly lost in a pair of sparkling blue eyes. …Looking at where I was going, she finished in a whisper. The breath caught in her throat and blood rushed through her veins. Heat fused every nerve in her body.

In the space of a heartbeat, she took in every detail of the man before her. Laugh lines crinkled around his eyes and firm mouth. The stubble of a day’s growth of beard cast shadows on his bronzed face. His dark blond hair held a hint of a rebellious curl at the ends. Then he smiled, and two slight dimples formed on each side of his mouth.

Slowly he released her and Colleen was embarrassed to find her hands still rested against his chest. She quickly dropped them to her side and stumbled back a step.

That’s all right, ma’am. The deep, sexy timbre of his voice washed over her, a cascade of warmth and promise.

They just stood there for what seemed like an eternity while the world continued around them, lost in the awareness of the other. She stared into his fathomless sapphire eyes and discovered the meaning of forever. A tug on her arm abruptly jerked Colleen out of the mystic trance.

There you are, Colleen, Vivian said. Ruth’s got us a table.

What? she asked, still looking at the uniformed man. Oh, yeah. Okay.

The handsome stranger stepped away and tipped his officer’s hat. Ma’am. He turned and walked towards the exit.

My God, Vivian whispered. Who was that tall drink of wonderful?

I don’t know. I just ran into him…literally.

Well, he can run into me anytime, Vivian drawled. C’mon, the others are waitin’.

Colleen let Vivian lead her towards the restaurant. She glanced over her shoulder one last time, hoping to catch a glimpse of the man who overheated her blood and sent her heart pounding mercilessly. He stood just inside the doors. As if he sensed her watching him, he turned and grinned. Even from this distance, his smile sent flutters to her stomach and made her heart skip a beat. A crowd of GI’s moved through her line of vision, and she lost sight of him. When the lobby cleared, he was gone.

Chapter Two

The music and atmosphere of the Muscle Palace pulsed around Daniel. Everywhere he looked, feet moved to the rhythm and skirts swirled. The orchestra played everything from Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey

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