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Emma Rose works nights at Denver Orphanage where she grew up, and days at Stratton Tire Company. Her goal is to become a teacher and have someone to love her. After meeting a Naval officer at the USO, her heart is flying high…until duty forces her to leave with barely his name.
Home to heal from burns sustained during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Naval officer Thomas Stratton is anxious to return to his squadron. Pressure from his father to stay and manage the family business has him escaping to the USO. He’s captivated by a young beauty who slips away after two dances, leaving him only memories of Rapunzel-length red hair and the sweater she leaves behind.
When fate reunites them, Emma dreams of a future with Thomas, but there are some who plot against their blossoming relationship. How can love survive against a war at home and afar?
An arm resting against her lower back warmed her skin through the thin cotton as they swayed to the rhythm of Glenn Miller’s “I Know Why.”With a slight turn of her head, she breathed in the unique, starchy fragrance of the military uniform mixed with his spicy aftershave. It would always remind her of this man and this fairy-tale evening. After all, a chance encounter, a few dances, and maybe a soda would soon end. Fairytale endings were for children. Sad.
The song was quickly—too quickly—drawing to an end. Her groan was soft and silent. His hum became murmured words as he sang with the music—words about seeing rainbows when holding her in his arms.
She floated, mesmerized by his voice. She’d read about sharing bodily warmth to survive if caught out in extreme cold. But the book hadn’t mentioned the body’s reaction to this warmth, that tingling stirring nerve-ends at every point of contact.
Like the dance, the song’s mellow saxophone notes faded.
This wasn’t supposed to be happening. Years of loneliness had built an invisible, yet effective, fence around her heart. Protecting this heart was vital to survival, just as becoming a teacher was vital to a financially secure future.
This is only for two hours—just for tonight. He’s just another soldier. Here today and gone next week.
With the song over, she slowly moved back from the warm cocoon. Couples left the dance floor, their conversations punctuated by soft laughter or deep, boisterous chuckles. Others stood talking as they waited for the next song.
Thomas took one step back. Would he thank her for the dance and walk away?
Please, God, let him want more time with me. Please.
They stood in the middle of the dance floor, neither moving. She held a breath, heart pounding like the bass drum in a parade band. His intense gaze held hers, leaving her insides jittery and fingers clamped onto the top of her small purse while waiting for his lead.
“You know, Emma? Something about you intrigues me. I can’t put my finger on it, but…” One side of his mouth lifted, and he wagged his head slowly from side to side, as if in denial of an unspoken thought.
Her heart thumped harder. She’d never been told she was intriguing. She’d danced with numerous men over the past couple years, but tonight was different—Thomas was different. He spoke and carried himself with self-confidence, a trait she wished for in her own life. Was he feeling the difference, too? Or was this just his way of flirting?
Relief, like a cool breeze on a hot day, washed over her when another song started to play. Saved by the bell.
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