All she wants for Christmas is to save the man she loves…
On a cold December day in 1955, Kate Arden got on a train to go home for Christmas.
This is the story of what happened when she got off that train. In 1943.
In 1943, Kate Arden was engaged to the man she loved, Jeffrey Rushbrooke. She was devastated and heartbroken when he was called up for wartime duty and later killed on a secret mission in France.
But what if Kate could change that? What if she could warn him and save his life before Christmas?
Or will fate have a bigger surprise in store for her?
Posey Creek, Pennsylvania
December 12, 1943
‘I bet you my last pair of stockings, little sister, I’ll be saying I do before Christmas.’
I whirl around in a circle, pretending the most wonderful man in the world is holding
me in his arms, my heart soaring. A pot of Ma’s meat gravy simmers on the burner, the smell tickling my fancy to have my own kitchen soon. So many wonderful memories here. Planked floors, big white stove humming with good cooking, Ma’s rocker and her rosewood sewing box. Wallpaper dotted with daisies, their yellow petals turned golden over the years – and four ceramic angels lined up on top of the spice rack. A tradition we do every year along with listening to the holiday radio shows, but this Christmas is even more special to me. It’s crazy I feel so confident, even though he hasn’t actually asked me yet. But I know he will.
Eyes popping, Lucy swallows the spoonful of jam she shoved into her mouth. ‘You,
Kate? Married?’ Slender and graceful like a young doe, she’s not as tall as me, though at sixteen she’s already filling out her sweaters. Dark brown hair rich with honeyed highlights frames her oval face and an army of freckles deepen in color on her cheeks as she laughs. ‘I hear Santa’s taken.’
I ignore her sarcasm and scoop Ma’s holiday cherry jam onto crackers. ‘It’s a secret, so don’t tell anyone.’ I wink at her, not letting up with my tease. I can’t. I’m too excited. Lucy adores secrets. Her face beams with excitement, like she got away with something without Ma finding out. Like using a pillow case for a laundry bag since bedding is hard to come by, or borrowing my two dollar face powder when she thinks I’m not looking.
Despite my affection for her, I pray she keeps my news under her hat. She loves to talk as much as she loves flirting with the soldiers down at the canteen, but I have to tell somebody the news or I’ll burst. What are sisters for if you can’t tease them? Besides, when Jeff does ask me, I’ll need her help fitting my bridal suit to get the hem straight. A gray suit with a frog clasp I made from extra silk Ma had left over from before the war. I’m lucky to have it. I want to look pretty for him. I never thought of myself as the pinup type, but Jeff makes me feel special and loved. He says I stand up taller when he catches my eye and that brings me closer to kissing him. Ma also noticed how much more confident I am. She was curious about why I saved up for two months to buy a blue silk hat with a wispy veil to go with my red coat with the fake fur collar when I have a perfectly good black hat.
I just smiled.
‘What’s there to tell?’ Lucy points to my bare finger smeared with jam. ‘You’re not
wearing a ring, so you can’t be engaged.’
I smile. ‘You don’t know everything about me.’
‘I know you’re sweet on some guy.’
I raise a brow. ‘Snooping again?’
‘Me?’ She bats her eyelashes. ‘I don’t have to. Not the way you go around singing to
yourself when you come home from your job at the mill. How you stop and sigh when we walk past Wrightwood House on our way to town.’
A winsome smile makes my lips curl. I love working at the paper mill. I started out in
the typing pool after I graduated from high school. I worked my way up to private secretary to Mr Clayborn in the billing and acquisitions department. He needed a girl who could think and not just type, he said. Nothing top secret about what I do, but I’ve been told not to ask questions. Anyway, I have other things on my mind. Even when I’m dead tired from typing a pile of my shorthand notes, I get warm all over when I think about the man I want to marry.
A light comes on in Lucy’s swimming green eyes. ‘So my big sister has stars in her eyes for Jeffrey Rushbrooke.’
‘Don’t get your garter belt in a twist.’ I grab another cherry jam filled cracker. ‘You
don’t know anything of the sort.’
Surprisingly, Lucy goes quiet, like she’s mulling over her reply before saying something
that might upset me. She gossips more than Mrs Widget the neighbor, but she’s a good egg.
Bouncy and full of cheer, especially this time of year. She loves Christmas as much as I do and helped me pile Ma’s holiday cherry jam into glass jars.
For me, the Christmas season begins when Ma takes us kids cherry picking in the
woods. Lucy, Frank Junior, and me. When the days are long, the nights are hot, and the cherries are big and sweet and perfect to pick for jam. Before the war, Ma made the sweetest jam in the county with cinnamon and lemon zest, but since rationing started, we’ve had food shortages. We cheered when the government doubled the sugar rations so we could make jam for the boys passing through our small town. The trains stop here every day and Lucy makes it a high priority to meet the train and flirt with the soldiers. She talks about nothing else.
‘He’ll never marry you, Kate,’ she says, her sad puppy eyes showing real concern. I’ve
never seen her look so serious. ‘You know what Ma says about them rich people.’
‘Those rich people.’
She wriggles her nose. ‘It doesn’t matter how good you talk, we’re not his kind.’
I shrug. ‘The bet’s still on.’
‘You’re a fool, Kate Arden.’ She sighs. ‘Falling for a guy who doesn’t know you’re
Lucy never went up to Wrightwood House with Ma and me when we were kids, never
knew Jeff and I were pals.
I grin. ‘He knows.’
She stares at me straight on. ‘Then why don’t you bring him around the house to meet
Ma and Pop?’
‘You know I can’t.’ The hoarseness in my voice reveals how much that hurts me.
Because my romance is a secret. Is Lucy right? Am I a fool?
Thank you, Jina Bacarr and Boldwood Books.
About the author
Jina Bacarr is a US-based historical romance author of over 10 previous books. She has been a screenwriter, journalist and news reporter, but now writes full-time and lives in LA. Jina’s novels have been sold in 9 territories