Brytewood, England October 1940
ISBN 10: 0-7582-3482-1
ISBN 13: 978-0-7582-3481-0
In the second of Georgia Evans' supernatural trilogy, Gloria Prewitt must reveal her greatest secret to have any hope of saving the people she loves... .
As the district nurse for a country village outside London, Gloria has the respect of the town and the satisfaction of helping those who need it most. She'd lose both if anyone discovered that she turns into a furry red fox and runs through the Surrey hills by moonlight. But what she sees on those wild nights suggests Brytewood is under attack from a saboteur with superhuman powers and the force of the Nazi Luftwaffe behind him.
What can one werefox do against a predator with devastating weapons at his command and the strength of the undead besides? What can a woman with a secret reveal without losing all she has? With the help of a couple of Devonshire Pixies, a Welsh dragon, and two men too stubborn to admit they're outnumbered, Gloria might just find out the answers.
It wasn't a false alarm.
After the seemingly endless drone of planes overhead and ack ack fire, there was comparative silence. The only immediate sounds being whispered conversations among the hotel staff clustered and the odd exclamation from the card players.
"Think that's it?" Gloria asked Andrew.
"Could be. Who knows? Best wait for the all clear."
Seemed it was going to be some wait. No one moved. Nothing happened. Apart from the arrival of an air raid warden checking gas masks.
"You know I could fine you both for not having them," he said.
"Sorry," Gloria said, before Andrew could reply. "I know we should have brought them, but I left mine at home. I always keep it with my nurse's uniform..." Better drop that in. "... and forgot it tonight. My mind was taken up with crutches and how I was getting around."
"Nurse are you then?"
"I'm the district nurse based in Brytewood." That should be worth something, darn it. Most people had more to do that make fusses about gas masks, although she'd nagged her share of school children for leaving theirs in the playground.
"Well, nurse, you know better, but... let's hope you don't need it tonight."
Didn't everyone share that hope? Gloria smiled at him. "Let's hope they're just flying over." Although that meant London would be getting it.
"Time will tell. They came over a couple of nights ago. Dropped half a dozen bombs that was all, but they caused a bit of trouble." He moved on to chat to the soldiers.
"He didn't even ask about yours," Gloria said to Andrew. "Just picked on me," she added with a little dig in his ribs.
"Good thing too, He wouldn't fine a nurse but I mightn't have been let off so lightly."
"Your work is important."
"But since I can't tell anyone what it is, not much of an alibi."
"Everyone in the village knows, or has guessed. Especially after the trouble back in September." When she'd raise the alarm. Not exactly easy since she'd been in her fox skin at the time.
His chest moved, as if he held in a laugh. "That's still an official secret."
"I won't tell. I promise."
"I know." He whispered it, his lips almost touching her ear, his breath warm against her skin. "Wouldn't be here with you otherwise, Gloria."
"We wouldn't down here at all if it weren't for the damn Lufftwaffe."
As if on cue, another flight passed over head. More this time. Suddenly feeling hideously vulnerable, Gloria clutched Andrew's arm, now handily wrapped across her chest. His free hand stroked the back of her neck. "Hang on, old girl," he whispered "This building's lasted centuries, you don't think it's going to crumble for the Jerries, do you?"
She hoped to heaven not. She tamped down the fox stirring inside. Stifled the instinct to run from danger. I was ten days to full moon. She didn't need to change, couldn't anyway with her leg in a cast but wanted to. She longed to shuck her human skin and run free, away from this hotel and the town for the safety of the woods.
Which weren't safe in the least. Nowhere was.
Andrew's lips brushed the back of her neck.
She hoped no one else heard her sigh. They were in a public place after all. She ought to move. Shift down the sofa. Get up and go somewhere else.
But where else did she want to be right now but caught in his arms?
She leaned closer, resting her head against his chest. In the uneasy quiet, she could hear his steady, human heart beat. She was utterly loony, accepting his invitation was stupid, snuggling up to him like this, insane. But who had time for sanity as another flight of bombers approached?
"Andrew," she whispered, kissing his wrist. It was his closest bit of skin.
"Scared?" he asked.
"Scared witless," she replied, the sound of anti aircraft guns all but drowning her words.
"Nah!" His arm held her a little tighter. "You'll always have your wits about you, Nurse Prewitt. It's not the first time either of us has sat through this, won't be the last."
She was beginning to wonder. Planes droned overhead in waves. "Poor London is going to get it bad." If weren't already. How long did it take to fly from here to London? It had been a good thirty minutes since the first wave passed overhead. "Maybe we're going to be lucky tonight." Unfortunately 'lucky' here meant someone else was disastrously unlucky.
"I'm lucky just being here with you," he said.
She smiled. Couldn't help it. It shouldn't feel this fantastic just sitting close to him, feeling his warmth and solid strength. That wasn't all she was feeling. He was unmistakably aroused. Blush burned her face. She'd done this. It wasn't exactly her fault, she told herself, but she was having a definite effect on Andrew Barron.
"Doing alright?" he asked quietly.
"If I have to be stuck in a hotel cellar, waiting for bombs to drop, I'm glad I'm here with you."
His laugh, a peal of sheer delight, got them quite a bit of attention. Just as well the the light was so poor, they couldn't see how red her face was. "Sorry," Andrew said, to the world at large. "I just realized, I think I'm in love."
Talk about dropping clangors. What was she supposed to say to that?
Not much it seemed.
"Good luck!" someone called and one of the card playing officers let out a wolf whistle.
"You do pick your moment, don't you, young man?" a woman said.
The general hilarity went right over Gloria's head. She was too busy worrying what she was going to do about it. If he was falling in love, having the brief fling Alice advocated seemed a downright rotten thing to do. But now was hardly the time to break up with him. Break up? They'd barely started.
Her stomach rumbled, a reminder of their interrupted dinner and the first bomb dropped. As if pulled by a string, everyone looked up to the rafters.
"He's a long way off," a male voice said, only to be drowned out by one much closer and louder.
Gloria clung to Andrew, damn her conflicted feelings, right now he was what she needed, his closeness, his strength, his presence.
"Can't last all night," he said. A third one fell. Much closer. Then a series of explosions, that shook the building. A woman screamed. A voice calmed her. Andrew's arm tightened around Gloria.
"Sorry I got you into this," he said.
"Don't be silly. This could just as easily be happening in Brytewood." Most likely was happening in Brytewood. "I hope everyone there's alright." Gloria shut her eyes. It was impossible not to think back to the awful night the vicarage was hit. Mind you, that had worked out very well for Alice and Peter. Maybe she and Andrew...
No! She was not even entertaining the idea. Alice didn't turn furry on moonlit nights. Alice's life was simple and straightforward. She didn't have a deep earthy secret she hid from the world. She and...
Andrew kissed her!
In front of all these people he kissed her. Not a wild, passionate kiss. Maybe no one else even noticed. It was a "don't worry, I'm here' sort of kiss'. Just a brush of his lips on hers.
Then why did she feel it deep inside? Why was her body softening against his while her nipples went hard as - as hard as the cock pressing against her. "Andrew," she said, for want of anything more intelligent or thoughtful.
"We'll be out of here soon," he promised. "They can't keep this up forever."
Only all night if they felt like it.
"Wish old Jerry would just drop the lot and go home!" a voice called across the cellar.
As if on cue, there was another explosion, two of them, close enough to shake the building. Amid the crashes and noise overhead, Gloria wasn't sure if she grabbed Andrew or Andrew grabbed her. Hardly mattered as she shut her eyes and clung to him as they both waited for another explosion.
Which never came. Just aircraft overhead until that too faded or was drowned out by sirens and shouts outside. Seemed an age before they gave the all clear. Alice waited as the others stood and left. She was safe, alive and had no wish to be carried up stairs, or give everyone one a demonstration how to haul yourself upstairs using your arms.
By the time Andrew and she emerged, most of the others had dispersed. No one seemed to want to finish dinner. At least no one apart from Gloria. She was suddenly and ravenously hungry but they probably should go out and look at the damage.
The smells of cordite and brick dust filled the air. The front door and surrounding windows were gone. The glass panes, still with the brown tape attached, lay shattered on the pavement. Strange how bright the night was almost as if...
"Stone the crows!" a voice said, "some one won't be driving home tonight."
"Stand back, stand back!" another voice called. "Got to get the hose through."
"Andrew, was something hit?" Gloria asked.
"Let's have a looksee." He helped her though the door and to the top of the steps. A few yards down the street, Andrew's car was burning like a 5th of November bonfire, right next to a vast pile of rubble that, if Gloria remembered rightly, had been an ironmonger.
"Oh, my god!" Andrew said, looking from Gloria to his burning car and back again. He was obviously dying to run and check.
"Go and look, Andrew. See what they can do. I'll wait here." Not much pint, it was obvious his car was done for.
Fifteen, firemen watching minutes later, he agreed.
"We're stuck here until the buses start up in the morning." Andrew said, as he came back and sat beside her. "If only I'd parked it the other side of the street." He put his arm around her shoulders and held her tight. Was it to give or get comfort? Didn't matter. She put her head on his shoulder.
"We can 'if only' all night." Gloria replied. "Shouldn't we see about finding an Aid Post or somewhere. We can't stay here."
"I don't see why not. It's a hotel isn't it? And the only damage is a few broken windows and some cracked plaster. I'm going to see what I can do." He stood up and she instantly missed his touch.
She sighed and wondered where the nearest Wardens post or rescue center was. Surely the hotel would close for the night?
Seemed not. In a few minutes, Andrew was back, brandishing a room key. "They gave us a room in the back," he said. "should be quieter that out front and..." he broke off. "Christ! Gloria, I never thought, I'd better get another room, I didn't mean..."
He might not have been thinking, she certainly wasn't. Just having him back within touching distance was all she wanted right now. She reached for the key, closing her hand over his, "Andrew, one room will do me fine, as long as I have towels and soap to wash with." After the past few hours, she understood what Alice meant about seizing the moment. If it had been the White Horse and not that ironmonger, they'd be gone. They weren't and she did not want to sleep alone.