Seeking adventure, shy Kitty Greenlee joins the Women’s Army Corps. In 1944 England, as secretarial support to the 8th Air Force, she encounters her dream man, a handsome lieutenant who only has eyes for her blonde friend. Uncomfortable around men, Kitty doesn’t think the handsome officer could want someone like her.
Recovering from wounds, Ted Kruger wants to forget about losing his closest friends and have fun before returning to danger as a bomber navigator. When Ted recognizes Kitty as the girl who rescued him two years before, he must choose between dating the sexy blonde or pursuing quiet, serious-minded Kitty even though he knows he’s not nearly good enough for her.
As the war gears up with the D-Day invasion, will Kitty and Ted risk their hearts as well as their lives?
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|Publisher:||The Wild Rose Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.91(d)|
Read an Excerpt
St. Simon's Island, Georgia, April 1942
Waves washed the sand from around her feet. Katherine wriggled her toes, enjoying the sensation of the tiny granules moving between them. Despite the chill, she couldn't resist getting her feet in the water.
She closed her eyes and absorbed the warmth of the sun, listened to the mesmerizing roar of the surf, pierced by the squawks of seagulls. The brisk wind buffeted her face, whipping the long, dark strands of her hair into curly tangles.
The one benefit of coming to Suzanne's was seeing the ocean. No, not just seeing it, experiencing it. Before coming to Georgia, the Cumberland River had been the largest body of water she'd ever seen. And it was no comparison at all to the vast sea.
Maybe someday she'd go farther, travel the world, see more — oceans, mountains, cities.
The vastness stretched before her. She glanced in both directions and then turned south, the morning sun hanging above her shoulder, glittering off the water. An occasional wave rushed up and enveloped her feet in its cool, wet grasp before sliding back into the ceaseless motion of the water.
She bent and captured a seashell tumbling in a retreating wave. Her fingers caressed the ribbed surface as she gazed out to sea and wondered how far the shell had come.
Something dark bobbed in the swells out beyond the breakers. She shaded her eyes and focused, trying to identify the object.
It looked like a raft.
In the short time she'd been here, she'd never seen anything floating off shore. Ships occasionally appeared on the horizon, but nothing so close.
Intrigued, she moved closer, into the chilly water. A wave crashed against her legs. The wet hem of her skirt brushed against her skin as the water receded.
There it was again. It was a raft. With a man slumped over, an arm dangling in the water. He wasn't paddling or fishing. He just lay there.
Was he dead? Dear Lord, what a horrible thought!
Unable to tear her gaze away, she watched the raft float up and down with each swell. Would the incoming tide carry it toward the shore?
Waves continued to break against her legs. Without thinking, she inched toward the man in the raft.
The dark head moved; his arm flailed in a weak effort to battle the waves.
He was alive.
Her heart raced. She plunged deeper into the chilling surf, ignoring the shiver that ran through her. Cold water surged against her body. She struggled against it, toward the man.
Sand shifted beneath her feet. Her brother-in-law had warned that the powerful undercurrent would pull her out to sea if she got caught in it. How far could she go before losing her footing?
She focused on the raft, with the blue-sleeved arm flopping over its side, and willed it to float closer — close enough for her to grab hold.
A swell pushed him upward. The man turned toward her, and his eyes widened. He must have seen her because he rolled over on his stomach, his brow furrowed in concentration. He struggled to paddle toward her.
An undulating wave pulled him down out of sight. She bounced in the water, straining to find him, until he reappeared still struggling against the forces of the sea. The powerful suck of undertow tugged at her feet.
She prayed it wouldn't pull him back out to sea.
As if to answer her plea, a large wave rose up behind him and thrust him forward. Another followed, almost crashing over him. She sidestepped to get closer while fighting to maintain her footing.
She lunged and grabbed hold of a rope on the side of the raft. As she tightened her grip, her feet pushed against the moving sand. She strained with all her might, determined to tow him to shore.
Wave after wave pounded them. She let each one carry them forward, and then she used all her strength to push against the shifting bottom to keep them from being sucked back out. While she struggled in the turbulent water, he lay motionless, apparently exhausted by his brief efforts.
When they reached the shallow water, she fell to her knees, tired and triumphant. The raft with its unmoving occupant rested on the sand until another wave hit it, pushed it forward, and then tugged it backward into the surf. She scrambled to her feet and pulled the heavy load across the hard, wet surface until she reached the dry powder.
She sank into the warm sand and took a deep breath before crawling around to inspect her catch.
Dark hair, wet and matted to his head, framed a sunburned, but handsome, face. Stubble defined a strong jaw softened by a slight cleft chin. He quietly sucked air into his lungs through slightly parted, cracked lips. His dark brows were knotted in a frown, and his eyes were squeezed shut as if he was in pain.
She quickly scanned him for injuries but saw no blood or broken bones.
How long has he been floating out there? Where did he come from? Were there others?
She gazed out over the water. Nothing.
He groaned, and her attention jerked back to the stranger from the sea.
She placed her hand on his shoulder and gently shook him.
He winced. His eyelids fluttered and then opened. Crystal blue eyes squinted in the bright sun. He slowly raised his hand to shade his eyes and turned his head as if trying to determine where he was.
Within seconds his gaze found hers, and he smiled, an innocent, boyish smile as if he had been caught in some foolish prank.
She didn't expect the thrill that ran through her. Those blue eyes, that smile. Something deep inside her responded, as if she'd found something precious she hadn't realized she'd lost.
He reached out to her.
She grasped his hand and drew it close, mesmerized by the connection. Her breath caught. The throbbing of her pulse obliterated all sound. Her whole universe shifted.
He squeezed her hand. His smile dissolved into a grimace. His swollen lips moved, as if trying to speak, but only a pitiful groan emerged.
She shook her head. Tried to think. Perhaps the struggle had been too much for him. Too much for both of them. Perhaps her reaction stemmed from excitement and overexertion, nothing more. Yet she held his hand even more tightly.
"You're okay," she whispered. Her voice came out weak, didn't convey the reassurance she intended. So she inhaled deeply, to steady herself, and tried again. "You're safe now."
He nodded and made a feeble effort to sit up.
"No. Stay still." She urged him back. "You're safe. You'll be okay."
He slumped against the raft, closed his eyes, and sighed. His face relaxed.
Still holding onto his hand, she reached out and touched his cheek. He shivered slightly. His skin felt cold, clammy.
He was freezing.
Desperation seized her.
She needed to get him warm. His wet clothes, the chilling wind. He could die from exposure if she didn't get help.
She released his hand and shrugged out of her sweater as she looked up and down the beach. It was deserted except for the few birds scurrying along the shore. She didn't want to leave him, but common sense told her he needed more than she could give him.
"I'll go get help."
She draped her damp sweater over his chest. His eyes flew open. He reached for her. She caught his hand and squeezed it.
His eyes pleaded for her to stay.
Her insides melted. "I won't be long, I promise." She looked into those questioning, blue eyes. "It's not far. I'll bring someone to help."
A soft smile creased the corners of his eyes, and he nodded, ever so slightly.
Her throat constricted. Her breath caught and held as if she could hold onto that moment forever simply by refusing to breathe.
Impulsively, she kissed his cold hand. The odor of burnt oil and rubber lingered on his skin. "You're safe now," she whispered. "I must go, but I'll be back. I promise."
She released his hand, jumped up, and dashed toward the house.
As she ran, the soaked, cotton dress clung to her body. Water dripped from the ends of her tangled hair. Her heart pounded with excitement. She had to get help for him, for the man with sparkling blue eyes and a captivating smile, the man who had stolen her heart.
She scurried on through the sea oats clinging to the flattened dune while her mind raced ahead.
Sam will know what to do.
Her bare feet pounded the hard-packed sand road. The gate swung open easily, and she raced across the soft, green grass.
"Sam!" she yelled for her brother-in-law before reaching the wide porch. "Sam, come quick!"
Grabbing the screen-door handle, she jerked it open, turned the knob, and the front door swung wide. She called again, "Sam!"
"What is it? What's going on?" He hurried down the stairs, already dressed for work.
Sucking air into her lungs, she held onto the door frame for support. "There's a man, on the beach," she gasped. "He was in the water ... in a raft. I pulled him out onto the beach."
Her brother-in-law stood there for a second, digesting her words. "Where?"
She looked back toward the ocean. "Down that way a little." She pointed southward. "I pulled him up far enough so the waves wouldn't drag him back out."
"He's alive?" Sam glanced back up the stairway toward the sound of footsteps.
"Yes, but he looks bad. No telling how long he's been out there."
Suzanne clattered halfway down the stairs in her fancy, high-heeled slippers and pink satin robe. Katherine's princess of a sister looked like she'd just gotten out of bed.
Sam told his wife, "Get some blankets. Hurry!"
Suzanne's face lit up. She turned and ran back up the stairs.
"What can I do?" Katherine asked.
He frowned at her. "Get me some water. A bucket and dipper will do."
Sam followed Katherine into the kitchen.
"Was he conscious?"
"Yes." She slammed the bucket into the sink and turned on the faucet full blast. "I told him I'd get help and be right back."
"Probably starving." Sam took a piece of bread from the bread box, wrapped it in a dishtowel, and jammed it into his pocket. "That's enough." He lifted the half-filled bucket from the sink, then grabbed the dipper from its hook, and dropped it into the water with a splash.
"You call Dr. Spencer. Then call the sheriff's office."
An energized Suzanne appeared in the doorway, dressed in dungarees and a faded red, pullover sweater. Her arms were piled high with blankets, her feet bare and her blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail. Sam ushered his wife toward the front door.
"We'll go take care of him," he told Katherine. "You stay here and wait for the doctor. Oh, and call Mr. Jonas. Tell him I'll be late. Number's by the phone."
"And listen for the baby." Suzanne gave Katherine that superior look she used to put her little sister in her place.
Katherine followed them. "Wait! I told him I'd come back!" She caught the screen door before it slammed. "I want to help him."
"Then do what I told you." Sam wasn't one to tolerate arguments.
Katherine stood alone in the front doorway. Left behind again. Disappointment tore through her. She choked back the tears that threatened to burst forth.
I was the one who saved him. I told him I'd come back. I promised.
She shook her head as if the motion would erase the memory of those blue eyes, that handsome, sunburned face. The way he'd looked at her.
Stop it, she scolded herself. Do what has to be done.
She crossed the slick linoleum floor and picked up the telephone earpiece. With trembling fingers, she jiggled the metal hook up and down several times and waited for the operator to pick up.
"May I help you?" the woman's voice boomed through the receiver.
"Get me Dr. Spencer. It's an emergency."
"Is the baby all right?"
Agitated by the nosy operator's tone, Katherine bit back a smart retort. "Yes, he's fine. It's a man on the beach that needs the doctor."
"Oh ... well, all right. I'll get him."
After she'd told Dr. Spencer about the man in the raft and after he'd promised to come right away, she got the operator again.
"Now I need the sheriff's office. Sam told me to call and tell them about the man on the beach."
"You just hang on, sweetie. I'll get them for you."
Katherine shivered in her wet clothes. The breeze off the ocean wafted through the still-open door. Goosebumps covered her bare arms, and she clenched her teeth to keep them from chattering.
Juggling the receiver and the telephone base in one hand, she opened the small closet door under the stairway, pulled out an old quilt, and wrapped it around her shoulders. The deputy finally came on the line, and she recounted her tale again.
After hanging up, she heard a car outside. Dr. Spencer's little coupe stopped in front of the house. She ran out to the gate and directed him toward the beach where, in the distance, Suzanne waved her arms.
Remembering the baby, Katherine eased back to the porch where she could hear his cry. She hoped he wouldn't wake so she wouldn't have to get him.
She restlessly paced just inside the front door. Anger pulsed through her veins as she thought of Suzanne out there on the beach helping the stranger. It was so like her sister, pushing her way into the spotlight. Taking over and leaving Katherine behind.
She'd come here to help take care of her sister's new baby. She hadn't wanted to come, knew nothing about caring for a newborn, but her mother had insisted. Suzanne needed help, and Katherine was the logical choice, at least to her mother.
"Only a couple of months," her mother had said. "Your sister is more important than that old school. I don't know why you wanted to go to college, anyway."
Her mother had never understood, never even tried.
So Katherine had boarded that train and had come all the way from Tennessee to help her sister.
Suzanne hadn't changed. She still saw Katherine as the little sister who needed to be told what to do and how to do it. Maybe someday both Suzanne and their mother would accept that Katherine had grown up, that she had a mind of her own.
At the sound of an engine, Katherine ran to the doorway. The sheriff's deputy parked behind the doctor's car and set out across the dune to investigate. A few minutes later an ambulance appeared. Two men got out and hiked toward the waves. She strained to see, but they disappeared from view.
Filled with anxiety, she paced the floor and waited, wondering if the man would be okay.
Suddenly remembering Sam's other order, she picked up the telephone receiver again and asked for the number written in bold letters across the top margin of the telephone book. She left the message for Sam's boss and then quickly hung up, anxious to get off before missing something outside.
An eternity passed before the two men trudged across the dunes carrying the mysterious man on a stretcher. Her heart raced at the chance to see him again. She ran out to the road.
Just as she opened the gate, he turned his head in her direction. For a moment, before the men loaded him into the ambulance, their gazes met. He smiled, that same little boy smile, and that same warm glow filled her insides. The world stopped spinning. It was as if they were alone, the only two people on the planet.
Then, the spell snapped.
He disappeared into the ambulance. Within minutes they were gone — the mysterious man, the doctor, the deputy, and the ambulance boys, all gone. The beach stretched out beyond the dunes, peaceful and deserted.
She followed Sam and Suzanne back to the porch. Her shoulders slumped. A sense of loss engulfed her.
"Will he be okay?" she asked.
"Yeah. Doc seems to think so. Exposure mostly." Sam deposited the bucket by the door.
"Where did he come from?"
"Don't know. Probably a ship went down out there somewhere. They'll find out what happened." Impatience laced his words. "I gotta get to work."
Katherine grabbed his arm, desperate to know more. "What was his name?"
Sam frowned and pulled free. "I don't know. And, frankly, I don't care. He caused enough trouble for one day." He shifted his attention to Suzanne and planted a quick kiss on her cheek before turning toward his car.
The baby wailed, demanding someone's attention.
"You better go up and take care of little Sammy. And get out of those wet clothes." Suzanne smirked before thrusting an armload of dirty blankets at Katherine. "Good thing you're doing laundry today."
Katherine pushed through the door and dumped the blankets near the foot of the stairs. She climbed to the second floor, back to the same, boring drudgery.
Yet, today had been the most exciting day of her entire life. The mysterious man might be gone, but she would never be the same. And she would never forget him.
His grandmother promised him that angels would watch over him, but he didn't believe her. Yet he still could see the angel with the golden halo who pulled him from the sea. After days adrift, alone and exhausted, he'd given up. Until she appeared and told him he was safe.
Grandmama had been right, after all, when she said he only had to believe and the angel would come.
He drifted off again, knowing he would live, thanks to his guardian angel.
Excerpted from "Kitty's War"
Copyright © 2016 Barbara Whitaker.
Excerpted by permission of The Wild Rose Press, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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