Chapter Nine Excerpt

Foolhardy. Dangerous. Illogical. These were the three reasons why a thinking man of twenty-one about to depart for war objected to romance. Then again, when Will formed that opinion, he had yet to meet Elizabeth with that intoxicating smile and mischievous laugh of hers.

    From the first moment she ran him off the road in her Lincoln Zephyr, the battle had ensued within him, knocking him for a loop. Then, with the introduction of those smirking, cherry-bomb lips and the green sparkle in her fine eyes, he was completely captivated. That was two weeks ago, and try as he might he couldn’t fight her allure. He was a goner, officially doll dizzy, for only one doll.

    Now, walking in the darkness toward Central Park with its dimmed lights, he held her hand in his tight grasp. The New York at War Parade torchlight procession was just about to begin as ragged rows of glowing amber lit the entrance to the park and Fifth Avenue. She looked over at him, beaming with her excitement that reached down into his soul, shaking it to life. There were three new words that any thinking man would declare following a day spent with the most fascinating woman he had ever met. Be. My. Girl.

    “This is so exciting, Will! I’m so happy to be a part of it with you.”

    She nearly skipped from her newfound patriotic enthusiasm as he led her toward the carousel, causing him to smile like the wacky, love-struck fool he had become in the short span of four hours. The calliope music grew louder above the growing din of filling the pathway.

    “Where are you taking me?”

    “You’ll see. It’s a surprise.”

    “I love surprises!”

    He didn’t. Well, not usually. But meeting her had bolted him from the blue, and darn if he didn’t love the way it made him feel.

    When they reached the amusement ride, she squealed, and he laughed along with her. “Have you ever been on it?” he asked.

    “Never! It’s positively lulu.”

    They stood hand-in-hand, alternating shy glances of unspoken burgeoning emotion with childlike awe of the painted horses rising up and down, circling round and round without destination. Every time Lizzy gazed up at him, he noted how the reflection of hundreds of bulbs from the merry-go-round sparkled in her eyes, and he felt a slight flutter in his heart. The carousel may have illuminated the park but it was her own effervescence that lit her countenance from within.

    Children’s laughter combined with the music in a delightful symphony, mixing with the intoxicating scent of the fragrance she wore. Sublime. It was all so sublime and felt so unreal as he stood proudly attired in his military dress uniform.

    “C’mon, let’s go for a ride, Pistol,” the spontaneous pet nickname unexpectedly emerging from his mouth.

    The aged attendant stood with hands on hips surveying the carousel with a keen eye. Will observed how he turned away a few other GI’s and their girls who had gathered from the parade. The words, “Sorry, boys. This is the last run for the night. Gotta shut her down,” pricked his ears with disappointment, and he did the most impulsive thing he’d done in years.

    He whispered into Lizzy’s ear, “Follow me,” tugging her hand.

    Her hurried footsteps followed on his heels. “Oh, Ducky are you going to do what I think you’re going to do?”

    “Ducky?”

    “Your new nickname. Ducky as in shincracker. Now, are you being a naughty flyboy, sneaking us onto the carousel? I’m so proud of you! It may seem that you’re not a fuddy duddy after all.”

    “What can I say? You’re a bad influence on me.”

    “I won’t say I told you so.”

    Yes, you did and I do believe you’re right. You’re exactly what I need.

    They reached the wood barricade on the far side away from the attendant’s view, and, with an impromptu lift, Will scooped her up into his arms, causing her to break into a fit of laughter.

    “Shush… he’ll catch us.”

    He placed her on the other side then hopped over in a swift move that made her guffaw. There was no time to puff his chest in pride of his dexterity. He grabbed her hand with a chuckle at their monkey business, and together they jumped onto the circling carousel.

    Watching her choose her mount enchanted him. It was as though each one had some special singular appeal. First, she’d touch the mane then move onto another, feeling the braided pole. It was obvious how the colors attracted her, like her own vibrant personality attracted him. Unlike other girls, she didn’t acknowledge her reflection in the large mirrors that formed the decorative center panels. Instead, she admired the whimsical beauty of each horse. She chose a stallion and grinned like a schoolgirl. Lizzy’s blithe spirit warmed his heart and captured his mind, transporting him to a place where war and prejudice didn’t exist.

    Coming to stand beside her, his arms came around her slender shape as she rose up and down, her delicate hand encircling the metal pole. His fingers delighted in the curve of her waist and the soft feel of her dress. “Lizzy?”

    Biting the corner of her lip, she gazed into his eyes. He felt the heated flush to his cheeks, uncontrollably mirroring her coy blush. The ride’s calliope music cast a magical spell that prompted a memory to be forged, one he was sure would carry him through war. His heart raced in a nervous staccato.

    “May I kiss you?”

    Her smile bowled him over. It reached her eyes and his heart.

    “I thought you’d never ask,” she said.

    Tentatively, his mouth inched toward hers, and he closed his eyes. Soft, warm lips met with a delicate pucker, growing deeper in sweet innocence, both unwilling to part in their discovery of the first promptings of love. He’d never tasted anything as incredible and delicious as her lips.

    “Hey you two! What are you doing on there?” the attendant yelled, jolting them from the most glorious four seconds of their young lives.

    They laughed and then so did he, waving at them with a dismissing hand.

    “Ah, love,” the man said. “I remember it well.”

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