Ebooka przeczytasz w aplikacjach Legimi na:
Odsłuch ebooka (TTS) dostępny w abonamencie „ebooki+audiobooki bez limitu” w aplikacji Legimi na:
Table of Contents
Excerpt – Evening Tryst
Excerpt – The Spurned Viscountess
Other Books by Shelley
1941. Britain is at war and under threat from the enemy. Life is fragile and love is more important than ever.
Margo can’t forget Johnnie. A chance meeting brings an opportunity to correct past mistakes, to show him they belong together. Bombs rain down on the city and they take refuge. It’s a night of discovery, of passion and bittersweet love laced with danger and the realization Johnnie must return to fight the enemy. Margo is thrilled they’ve become lovers, but in the morning old problems resurface and she faces one final test to prove their love is unforgettable.
For the men and women who have lost their lives while fighting for our freedom.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
—Laurence Binyon, 1914
There was no way around it.
She’d have to tell her fiancé the truth—that she didn’t love him and had only agreed to accept his proposal because she’d buckled under parental pressure. The facts didn’t show her in a good light, but it was never too late to stand up for herself, to start as she meant to go on in the future.
All she needed was a spine.
Margo grimaced. Her mother was a formidable opponent. In the past, it had been easier to agree with her—she hadn’t needed a backbone of steel.
The clear notes of a trumpet blared, forcing her back to the present. A piano tinkled a bright and gay tune while a husky voice crooned words of bluebirds and Dover. Chatter and laughter, some tinged with desperation, spilled from inside the dancehall. Anything to forget the horrid war for a few short hours.
Margo paused on the threshold with her two friends, letting her eyes adjust to the brighter light after the blackout conditions outside on the street.
“Lots of soldiers here tonight,” June, one of her Women’s Auxiliary Air Force or WAAF friends, said after scanning the room with approval. They checked their coats into the cloakroom. “I hope we’re not too late and the good dancers are taken.”
“Ooh, flyboys,” Caroline said, a gleam of excitement lighting her eyes when she spied the blue uniforms.
Margo laughed. “Thank goodness men aren’t rationed, otherwise we would be in trouble.”
“Good men are so scarce, they might as well issue ration coupons. It’s all right for you,” June said. “You’re engaged.”
Margo straightened the smart blue jacket of her uniform. Absentmindedly, she twirled the ring on her left hand. Two years ago none of them would have considered attending a dance dressed like this, let alone without an escort. The war had changed everything, everyone. It had affected her life.
“Come on, Margo! Stop fiddling with that ring. Let’s dance.” June’s excited smile lit up her plain face, taking it to beautiful.
Margo couldn’t believe she’d said yes to Peter. She didn’t love him as a wife should love a husband. What she felt was more friendship, which wasn’t the same thing at all. The backs of her eyes stung without warning and Margo blinked.
Her slim frame tensed as Johnnie’s image slipped into her mind. His black hair with its rebellious curl. His serious brown eyes. She could almost feel his strong muscular body and the way his muscles rippled beneath her hands when they’d stood close and danced. And his smile, the one that made her insides twist and melt and long for his touch, his kiss.
Her breath eased out on a depressed sigh, her mind returning to Peter. Blond where Johnnie was dark. As different as the blackout conditions of the night were from the bright sunlight of a summer’s day.
The engagement had made her parents happy. Peter’s parents were ecstatic. Even Peter appeared excited. Margo was having trouble summoning the same joy when she floundered as if her life were running out of control. Friendship was no basis for a marriage, despite how happy her engagement had made their parents.
Following her friends through the press of bodies, she gave the gold diamond ring one last self-conscious twirl.
It was still Johnnie.
Margo swallowed. The last time they’d met they’d argued. Bitterly. A shard of pain darted through her chest. This was silly. She’d already shed enough tears over Johnnie. As her parents had pointed out, a relationship between her, Lady Margo Harrington, and the gardener’s son wasn’t the done thing. They’d made their opinions clear. Gossip had rippled through the small village on the outskirts of the family estate. She’d embarrassed her parents, and finally after many arguments and tirades, she had bowed to pressure and stuttered out a lie so Johnnie would leave.
“Isn’t this smashing?” Caroline’s right foot tapped to the jaunty beat of the music. “I’m so glad we came.”
“Would you like to dance, ladies?”
Two soldiers stood in front of them, tall and handsome in their khaki uniforms, Australians judging from their accents.
Margo gestured at June and Caroline. “You two dance.”
June frowned. “Are you sure?”
“She’s so pretty she won’t be alone for long,” one of the Australian’s drawled in his cute colonial twang.
Margo bit back a smile at Caroline’s theatrical shiver. “Shoo! Go now before one of the other women snaps them up.”
With little more persuasion, her friends glided onto the dance floor, blending with the rest of the couples dancing to the words of the popular Vera Lynn number.
Margo skirted those near the door, hoping to find a place to hide. She hadn’t wanted to come tonight but June and Caroline had refused to let her stay at their lodging alone.
A new song started, one with a faster beat. Her friends lingered on the floor with their partners.
“Would you like to dance?” An Englishman smiled uncertainly and Margo liked him for his shyness. Johnnie had hesitated the first time he’d approached her at a dance. Brought up to be a lady, she’d inclined her head and accepted despite the impropriety of him asking her. Scandalous, according to her mother.
Caroline and June kept saying she needed to stand up to her parents. Maybe they were right, but despite her parents’ faults, she loved them. After her older brother had drowned a few years ago in a boating accident down at Cowes, it was understandable they were overprotective. At least she’d left home and become a WAAF despite their objections.
“Thank you. I’d love to dance.”
The man beamed and offered her his arm. They strolled over to join the couples doing a quick step on the polished floor. Margo stepped into his arms and made small chat to put the man at ease, just as she’d done with Johnnie. They moved in time to the female singer warbling about love and laughter.
Feeling the weight of a stare, Margo glanced over to her right. Her feet faltered.
“Johnnie,” she whispered, positive she was seeing things.
“I beg your pardon?” her partner asked.
Margo blinked several times before risking another glance over to the corner of the room. Disappointment seared her when she spied the face of a handsome stranger.
“I thought I saw someone I knew,” she said, forcing a bright smile. “A friend from the village where I live.”
“Would you like to go over to see them?” her partner asked.
Margo caught the hint of disappointment in his face. “I was imagining things,” she said. “Besides, I’d rather dance.”
The soldier’s shy smile made her glad she’d accepted his invitation. They quick-stepped mostly in silence, although Margo discovered he was on leave and his armored brigade was heading off the following week.
The song ended and someone tapped her on the shoulder.
“May I have this dance?”
No! Margo’s mouth formed an O of disbelief. Her heart hammered, thumping so loudly she wondered if she might faint. Slowly, she forced herself to inhale. Hardly daring to hope, she spun around to face the man behind her.
Goodness, it was Johnnie.
Margo swallowed, a hundred thoughts flitting through her mind. There was so much between them, so much hurt and bitterness that his request for a dance surprised her. But it relieved her too, gave her courage.
Seeking refuge in manners, Margo thanked the soldier she’d danced with and turned to Johnnie, eagerly searching his face. He looked thinner, his face etched with lines that hadn’t been there when they’d parted. His eyes were the same deep brown that made her melt inside but his smile was absent. And his beautiful black hair was ruthlessly short. There was no curl left. Margo wanted to say something gay and witty, something to make him smile.
Instead, she remained silent, slipping into his arms and moving close. The heat from his body warmed her through, melting the icy coldness that had encased her since their last harsh words. She gloried in his scent, the clean aroma with the faint hint of soap and musk bringing back a rush of memories. Good times. Happier times when they were in love and enjoying spending each snatched moment together.
“How are you, Johnnie?”
Johnnie’s hand tightened on her shoulder before guiding Margo into a turn. “I’m fine,” he said, his husky voice sending shards of longing skipping through her body. In that instant, she wished things were different.
Johnnie drew Margo closer than propriety allowed, desperate to have her brushing against him. Since they were in London rather than the village hall, there were no old biddies to disapprove or whisper behind their hands. He’d hardly believed his eyes when he’d seen Margo enter the dancehall. Before he’d navigated his way across the crowded room, a soldier had asked her to dance. Now that he had her in his arms, he wasn’t sure what to say, not with recollections of their last meeting and the bitter words they’d hurled at each other still fresh in his mind. So instead of conversation, he danced in silence, storing up precious moments for next month when they shipped out to North Africa.
Lady Margo—no, she’d told him to call her Margo—wore her golden hair restrained in a roll at the back of her head with curls framing her face. Instead of her normal stylish dresses, she wore a WAAF uniform, but other than that, she hadn’t changed. Her soft blue eyes glowed while her pink lips tempted a man to steal a kiss. Johnnie had stolen a few in his time and he recalled how soft her lips were, how good they felt pressed to his skin. His groin brushed her hip and his cock reacted in a predictable manner, drawing tight.