Duty. Honor. Country. Hero.
The moment America is drawn into the second world war, Betsy Riddle is determined to do her patriotic duty. A prolific letter writer, she pens news from the home front in an effort to lift the spirits of soldiers across the ocean. But the moment she drops the first letter to Major Jackson Novak into the mailbox, she begins to worry how he might respond.
As a member of the newly formed OSS, Jack Novak knows the horrors of war. Dropped behind enemy lines, he works with the French partisans to cause as much damage as possible. His missions are dangerous but when he opens a purple envelope smelling of lilacs, he wonders if it’s possible that a certain minx can cause even more havoc.
Is love strong enough to withstand years of being thousands of miles apart? Will the escalating dangers of war destroy their chances of sharing more than words penned on paper?
And what happens when the letters stop?
Publisher’s Note: This book contains elements of power exchange and domestic discipline. If these offend you, please do not purchase.
Enjoy this free preview of In His Hands:
Chapter One
“What do you mean, you’re done?” Betsy asked from her seat at the kitchen table.
“Exactly what I said,” Jane replied, tossing down a piece of folded paper. “Why are we wasting our time writing to men we’ll never meet when there are men anxious to take us out to dinner and a movie?”
“Jane, we are supposed to be keeping their spirits up. It must be so awful being so far away from home and in a strange country. Not to mention these men are risking their very lives to keep us safe. A few minutes sending news from home to let them know that we are thinking of them is nothing compared to what the soldiers do daily.”
“Look, I’m just as patriotic as you are, but I’m done. When I receive a marriage proposal, I want it given in person, with a very huge diamond in a black velvet box.”
“Proposal? You got a proposal?”
“More like three,” Jane said. “I’m not sure which is worse… men proposing or a man halfway across the world stating that my behavior is questionable.”
“What? Jane, you’re not making any sense,” Betsy said.
Jane laughed and lifted an envelope. “It doesn’t appear that Mr. Bossy approves of my desire to have a bit of fun.”
Trying to wrap her head around the fact that her roommate’s pen-pals seemed far more interesting than her own, it took Betsy a moment to realize what Jane had said. “You have a pen-pal named Mr. Bossy?”
“Well, no, but that might as well be his name. It seems that while he is interested in settling down, I have no interest in his rather archaic beliefs. Why can’t a girl enjoy herself? This is 1943, not the Middle Ages! If nothing else, I think the attack on Pearl Harbor has proven that life is too short and too uncertain to be so prudish. I have no desire to be, as he so quaintly puts it, ‘taken in hand’. The only person to set my behind on fire was my daddy, and that ended when I hit puberty. I promise, he will be the last.”
“He actually threatened to… to spank you?”
“Not in so many words, but when he states that some little lady needs to be reminded what happens to naughty girls, well, you tell me what pops into your head?”
Blushing at the image that bloomed in her mind, Betsy shook her head in disbelief. “Wow, all I get are requests for more cookies or another pair of socks, and you are getting marriage proposals and rather intimate suggestions.”
“Relax. Believe me, there is nothing intimate involved.” Jane paused and then giggled. “In fact, he reminds me of you a bit.”
“Me? You think I’m bossy?”
“No, I just meant that Jack is a bit of a fuddy-duddy-“
“So you think I’m a fuddy-duddy?” Betsy said, not sure what would be worse… being bossy or being so… lame.
Jane immediately reached across and took her hand. “I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just that you have an old soul and it appears that Jack does as well. In fact, I think you two would be perfect for each other.”
Rolling her eyes, Betsy sighed. “Gee, thanks. Just what a girl wants to hear, that I am perfect for some man old enough to be my father!”
Jane laughed again. “I didn’t say he was old; I think he’s only thirty or so. I just know that he has old-fashioned beliefs and, well, Betsy, you have to admit that you do, too. I, on the other hand, have absolutely no intention of allowing anyone to dictate my behavior or keep me from having fun.”
Betsy was still reeling from the conversation and yet had a question she just had to ask. “What exactly are you writing to these men?”
Jane smiled. “Honey, you seem to forget one very important fact about this pen-pal thing.”
“What’s that?”
“Betsy, these soldiers are first and foremost men. Do you honestly believe they give a hoot about the price of corn, who won the local mayor’s race, or how much money yet another bake sale raised? If you were hunched down in some awful trench full of mud and bugs with bullets flying over your head, what would take your mind off your misery?”
Betsy shuddered at the vivid image that popped into her head. Her heart ached for all those poor men so far from home. “Um, I don’t know but maybe coming home?”
“Even as lovely as that will be, I promise there is something else that keeps those soldiers going.” Jane leaned closer and lowered her voice. “Sex.”
“Oh, don’t sound so shocked. I’m not talking about allowing a man to get to home-plate, but a little time spent on second base is certainly not a mortal sin.”
Betsy was having a difficult time keeping up with Jane’s change in topics. “I thought you said sex, not baseball.” Jane’s laughter had her friend a bit upset. “There’s no need to laugh at me, Jane Kennedy! I’m not quite the prude you seem to think I am.”
“Sweetie, I’m not laughing at you. Haven’t you heard of the baseball for sex metaphor?” At the negative shake of Betsy’s head, Jane continued and explained the newest slang for sexual exploits. “You told me about how Steve Miller kissed you last weekend so, my dear, you’ve been on first base. And, since I’ve seen that book you keep hidden in your nightstand, I’m wondering if you rounded first and headed for second. You might read the classics in the living room or on the front porch, but when you are all alone in your bed, I know you are dreaming about gardening.” She laughed and Betsy could feel her cheeks heating when her friend waved a finger back and forth in front of her face. “And I’m not talking about corn. I’m talking about a certain gardener and gamekeeper named Oliver Mellors. I’m willing to bet you are playing the role of Constance-oh, excuse my disrespect-I mean Lady Chatterley.”
“I have not!” Squirming a bit in her chair, Betsy added, “I mean, yes, I guess I’ve been on first base a few times, but I most definitely have not even stepped a toe off of it. I’ll have you know that Steve went home with my handprint on his face. His kisses do absolutely nothing for me!”
“And some fictional character does?”
Betsy wasn’t about to confess that it wasn’t the character per se, it was the way the man took charge. His love affair with the female character had kept Betsy’s heart pounding and her fingers turning the pages. Steve’s kiss had been more like that given by a puppy-overly energetic and, well, quite moist. “Fine, I read it. So what? With you stealing all the great guys, what’s left for a girl to do but find solace in a book? You won’t tell, will you? I mean, that book is practically banned! Dad would kill me if he knew I’d read it!”
Jane bent forward and gave her a hug. “Your secret is safe with me.” Picking up the letter she’d dropped, she held it out. “Here, consider this my true patriotic duty.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that since you are so intent on keeping our soldiers happy, you can correspond with this man.”
“Mr. Bossy?” Betsy asked. “Why him?”
“Because, my dearest Betsy, it’s time to close your books and find a warm, red-blooded man. Let Mr. Bossy teach you how a man really thinks. I have a feeling you’ll find it a lot more interesting than some fictional character in the pages of a book… even if it is a naughty novel. In fact, why don’t you ask him if he enjoys reading? Or, better yet, confess your love of a certain book. I bet he’d admire you for having the spunk to read a banned book.”
“Yes,” Jane said and then giggled. “Of course, he’d probably not admit that out loud. He’s far more likely to blister your behind!”
“He wouldn’t!”
“It might be fun to find out though, wouldn’t it?” Dropping the letter onto the pile in front of Betsy, Jane gave her a final hug and then left her to ponder her words as she went to prepare for a date. It took several minutes before Betsy dared to reach for the innocent looking envelope and remove the folded sheets to read the latest missive from Jane’s Mr. Bossy.