EXCERPT: His Very Own Girl by Carrie LoftyThursday, September 27, 2012 13:00
Over the forty-plus years I’ve been reading romance, I’ve not been a fan of recent US history – bad American that I am. Maybe I was just reading the wrong book or the wrong author. Because Carrie Lofty has now made a mini-fan out of me – at least for the WWII era.
Joe and Lulu meet in the most unlikeliest of circumstances. They think they’ll never see one another again after that. But the world during this point in time was a very small place, as they find out. But after their connection is made, war intercedes and sends them in different directions to do their jobs.
Ms. Lofty does a wonderful job of giving readers a look into so many lives affected by war, not just Joe and Lulu. When German bombers are in the air over London, you could swear you’re there hunkering down with those who were enjoying a pretty day. Following Joe behind enemy lines is tense and very emotional. Lulu meeting Joe for a few days’ furlough covers the spectrum of hopes and dreams of everyone who had some role in trying to stop Hitler. And there’s so much more.
After war took the lives of Lulu Davies’s parents and her fiancé, she promised herself she would guard her heart carefully and concentrate on her great love–flying the biggest and best airplanes as a British civilian pilot. She’s content to strive for greatness in the skies, and dance with a few GIs on the way.
Brawny, quiet American medic Joe Weber signed up with the paratroopers to escape his checkered past. The first test of his medical skill takes place when he rushes to the scene of a plane crash. He’s stunned to come face-to-face with a spirited, dark-haired beauty.
Their flirtation breaks all of Lulu’s rules, but dance by dance, week by week, walk by walk, she falls in love with this honest, vulnerable man on the run from his demons. The lovers only have one night together before Joe departs for the front lines.
Lulu distracts herself work and the friendships of her colleagues, but she can’t get the handsome medic out of her head. Only time and hope will tell if her love will return unharmed, and if they can overcome their pasts to forge a beautiful life together in peace-time.
Joe held a pilot named Lulu Davies. He held her and he danced with her.
Their bodies moved in time to the orchestra’s fair version of “As Time Goes By.” Her easy, graceful rhythm offset her crisp posture. Everything about her was ladylike and proper–everything except her slacks and that wild glint in her eye. But she wore even the slacks with feminine bravado, never letting him forget that, uniform be damned, she was all woman.
He wanted to dance for a year. Dance . . . and take her to bed.
She was going to his head like 180-proof alcohol, those savage spirits his uncle had brewed during the worst years of the Depression. Joe had been thirteen when he and his older sister discovered the still, then staggered home as drunk as lords. He’d sworn he would never forgive his old man for the humiliating beating and righteous lecture that followed–and he hadn’t. His father had died in a car crash three days later.
Joe inhaled and opened his eyes, wondering when he’d closed them. Lulu was looking up at him. A little frown pulled at the skin between her dark brows.
“Call me Joe,” he said. “‘Private’ makes me think I’ve done something wrong.”
“Well, that won’t suit. Joe it is, then.”
They only touched with arms and hands–their bodies still a frustrating, respectful distance apart–but Joe absorbed the contact like sunshine on a lazy summer afternoon. With his nose a mere inch from her hair, he inhaled the sweet lavender scent of her, grabbing at the smell as an antidote to Henley’s smoky, sweaty, beer-drenched stink.
Would she recoil if he kissed her on the temple? Maybe. Would he forgive himself if, by doing so, he lost the right to keep dancing with her? Not a chance. But the temptation remained, all soft and pearly skin.
“I never would’ve taken you for a pilot,” he heard himself saying. It was the truth, but he hadn’t meant to speak so bluntly.
She stiffened slightly, but then she smiled so deeply that a dimple appeared on her left cheek. “And I never would’ve taken you for a medic.”
A couple bumped Joe from behind. He tightened a protective hand along Lulu’s upper back. Her breasts brushed his chest. Joe’s muscles snapped to attention. Their eyes caught and held as an electrical current did the jitterbug up his spine.
Lulu giggled. “Crowded in here.”
“Sorry,” he muttered.
“Not your fault. And I wouldn’t be dancing with you if I didn’t want to be close.”
Her smile, her body, her bold demeanor . . . she wanted to be with him. A sudden surge of confidence walled his doubts behind a brick wall.
Slow it down, Web. Pull it together.
“So why don’t I seem like a medic?”
Lulu blushed and lowered her eyes. This wild woman was capable of something as girlish as blushing? “Forget I mentioned it,” she said.
“I insist.” Not that Joe thought the red cross belonged on his arm, but he wondered if others could sense his misgivings.
“I’ll only embarrass myself.”
“I have embarrassment cornered, I think. I’m not much of a dancer.”
Lulu slid her hands up his arms. “You’re doing just fine.”
Joe couldn’t help his grin. The orchestra wound down and he prayed for another slow song. C’mon, boys. One more. They were under some sort of spell, which might be broken if they left the dance floor. Lulu seemed to hold her breath as well. Her hands still gripped his upper arms. When the slow, clean clarinet and swaying rhythm of “Moonlight Serenade” started, they both exhaled.
Lulu threw back her head, laughing. “It won’t end unless we want it to, Joe.”
“I like the sound of that.” He touched her chin. “Now . . . spill it.”
“Because I sure as hell don’t feel like a medic. I wonder if it shows.”
Shrugging, she rested her gaze on the hollow at the base of his throat. He fought the urge to swallow. “It’s not that,” she said. “It’s just that when I think medic, I think doctor. And when I think doctor, I think spectacles and books and studying–not, well, not . . . muscles.”
Joe lost the song’s rhythm and chugged to a graceless stop. She stole his breath with another impetuous squeeze of his biceps, as if testing his resilience, while delicate pink shaded the tip of her nose and the apples of her cheeks.
“I told you it was embarrassing,” she said, her voice husky.
“What’s embarrassing is how disarming you are.”
“That won’t do in the least! Not around Allied troops, at any rate. Perhaps I should jump with you into Berlin, help disarm the Germans?”
The idea of Lulu Davies or any woman making a combat jump pushed ice chips through his veins. Bad enough she was a civilian pilot, ferrying planes all over Britain–dangerous work that women shouldn’t need to do. Her crack wasn’t funny because it hit too close to home.
“No,” he said quietly. “I think you’re doing enough.”
For the first time since they’d started dancing, Lulu’s expression curdled. A hard gleam invaded her brown eyes. She ended their embrace. “I see. Is that the lay of it, Private?”
Needing something to do with his prematurely empty hands, Joe crossed his arms over his chest. The two of them squared off in the midst of those swaying couples. Rarely had he been so frank with a woman. Now he was going to suffer.
But good Lord, he didn’t regret it. He was there to claw his way onto the Continent and wrest each inch of territory back from Hitler. The job of every last GI was to protect those weaker than himself, not to laugh at a joke that any civilized man should’ve found insulting.
Women near the front lines? His stomach twisted.
Lulu sighed. Her shoulders dipped slightly, the first time he’d seen her posture turn lax. She scrubbed a hand along the back of her neck, then offered a smile tinged with a sort of resignation. Joe wanted her dimple back, but that didn’t look likely.
“At least you didn’t backhand me some warmed-over insult,” she said.
“Well, you haven’t asked if I’m hiding male anatomy inside my trousers, nor have you wondered if I enjoy the feel of the throttle stick in my hands.”
Suddenly Joe felt ashamed for his sex. He didn’t want dames to fly planes–only wartime created a climate for such desperate measures–but he wasn’t an ape, either. Defending women and children didn’t have to come at the cost of insulting them.
“Does that mean we can finish our dance?”
Lulu Davies licked her lower lip and stepped back into his arms. Relief surged over him. And this time Joe didn’t hesitate when he thought to kiss her temple.