A quick question for my readers[especially those with any military background]. Is there such a thing as a "Stray bombing?" Seriously, I pulled that phrase from my...tricky hat, thinking, people make up titles, phrases, crap all the time. It would be perfect for Mark, in heated concern, to question it. But, i've had 3 critiquers say, "He's a pilot. Wouldn't he know what a stray bombing is?" *snort* Um, I don't know... I think in a situation like that people want details, and saying stray bombing doesn't really translate. Am I wrong? Is there such a thing as a stray bombing? What's your opinion? Happy Reading!
Mark Danbury strode down the darkened corridor. His shoes echoed the steady drumming of his heart as an unseen energy pressed him from all sides. A small bead of sweat trickled down the side of this face. He wiped it with a shaky hand and cursed the clench of his stomach.
He’d come to this country to fight in a war. Marriage had never been in the plans. He cut down the small measure of resentment that cropped up in his heart. His vulnerability towards her was of his own making. He should have learned at eighteen how unreliable his judgment could be when it came to matters of the heart. Bottom line, he should never have gotten involved with Margaret Keith.
An office at the end of the hallway stood open, and light spilled from the narrow doorway to the tiled floor, illuminating the speckled surface as he approached. He slowed, stopped in the last instant before his life would be irrevocably changed.
There was no going back.
Mark took a deep breath, relaxed his shoulders and stepped into the light.
Cameron Hawthorne stood quickly at the interruption. His hand moved to the side arm under his left elbow, but he slid it back into the leather holster on a breath of air. “Mark. I didn't realize the time. Have you come straight from the airfield?”
“I came as soon as I heard.”
Cameron Hawthorne wanted to enlist Maggie in his newly formed Civilian Intelligence Operation. She spoke four languages fluently and would be an asset to the team. An asset or not, Mark didn’t want to worry about her as she traipsed through Europe meeting with the victims of war and helping them find refuge. Good cause or not, people died doing that.
“Of course.” Cameron pursed his lips and scratched his chin. “So, you haven't spoken with Maggie yet.”
“No. God, Cameron. Have you? Have you sealed the deal already?” Bile climbed the back of Mark's throat. He hated being late and being out of control...and he'd felt out of control ever since he'd met Maggie. “She can be carelessly impulsive.”
Cameron raised a brow at his description.
Mark relented. “As responsible as she is, she'll agree to anything. Remember the trip down the Thames in a canoe?”
Cameron leaned back with a roar of laughter. His shoulders shook, and he held up a finger. “Yes. God, yes.” He sobered. “I need someone like her, a woman who can reassure the female victims, not everyone we encounter is going to feel comfortable with a man. She's strong Mark.”
“She's a woman.” His grandmother would roll over in her grave if she were dead. Grateful that Ethel wasn't, he silently asked forgiveness for the offense. He just needed something to protect Maggie—even a good douse of male chauvinism. “I would be obliged if you’d allow me a few days leave, sir.”
“You know I don't have that kind of authority, Mark.”
“I received my notice. I've been assigned to your civilian unit—on retainer. As of zero hundred hours, your request for a pilot is being fulfilled. I'm reporting for duty, sir!”
“...after you take a three day leave, you mean.” Cameron smirked. “And cut the crap, Mark. Don't sir me.” He moved around to the shelves that lined the western wall of his office. “Damn it. We’re in the middle of a war. I may be a civilian, but I work closely with the RAF. As a matter of fact, your first assignment is to fly reconnaissance.”
“I wasn't aware of that.” Mark shifted his weight. He cleared his throat. “You see, Maggie and I are going to be married.”
“Maggie has agreed to marry you?” Disbelief covered Cameron from his eyes to his stance, even his hands hung slack at his sides.
“We’ve spoken about it many times.” He slowly met Cameron's gaze, hoping his insinuation meshed with his words.
“Ahh.” Cameron called his bluff. He had an uncanny ability to pick out a lie. “How much time will you need in order to convince her?”
“Three days should be enough time.” He wished, banking that Maggie's spontaneity would precipitate the big event.
“Optimistic, aren’t you?” Cameron's incredulity sparked a fire of anger in his chest.
“More like stubborn,” he bit off. “Believe me when I say, Maggie will not be available to work for you after we are wed. I’ll be sending her home.”
“Do you love her?”
“What the hell does that have to do with anything?” How could anyone know what love was right now? If Mark survived this war, then love might become a viable option. Until then, all he knew was that he was very fond of her and feared for her safety.
“Twenty-four hours. The fact is, I could really use Maggie.” Cameron didn't wish Mark luck. It was obvious in the fold of his arms and firm set of his jaw.
“Please, two days, Cameron.”
“You really need to talk to Maggie. I'm actually surprised you didn't go directly to her place. Didn't you hear about the stray bombing just north of the city?”
“Stray bombing. What the hell is a stray bombing?”
“Some German plane just showed up out of nowhere and dropped a bomb. Middle of the day, a mostly deserted road on the out skirts of town. Maggie was on her way home from your grandmother's by way of the Pennington estate.”
Dread suckered the air from his lungs. “My God. I have to go.”
“Thirty-six hours, Mark. That’s all I can give you. If you can’t convince her to marry you in that amount of time, you’ll need to report to the Bentley Priory anyway. You belong in the air fighting the Germans not on the ground courting the ladies.”
“Is she okay?” His affection for her had grown, and Cameron had been witness to it, knew it. Still, he liked to keep those affections under his hat. Too many things could go wrong, and he didn't even know if Maggie would agree to this proposal. Did she want him for life—however long that ended up being?
"It wasn't pretty. She was shook up when I left her with the Pennington's."
The relief made him unexpectedly lightheaded. She had to be in mostly working order, really fine or Cameron wouldn't have left her. “Thirty-six hours then.” He saluted, his expression grim as he did an about-face. He paused at the door and turned back. “Thanks for the leave.”
“I hope you know what you’re doing Mark.”
“I hope so too.”