Excerpt from The Shadow Ally:
Corey’s Hotel, Irvinestown, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland
Friday, 20th June, 1941
Ruth Corey regarded the black-haired young man sitting alone at the table in the corner of the dining room. Frank Long probably wasn’t much older than her, but his serious expression added several years to his age. She hadn’t met many Yanks before. Well, only her uncle George when he came home for her grandmother’s funeral two years ago. Once the funeral was over, he was all smiles, laughing and chatting with everyone. She thought everyone in America must be like him, but maybe not. This fellow certainly wasn’t. She’d barely got two words out of him when she brought him his breakfast this morning and introduced herself. Her mother had told her that he had checked in late last night. They didn’t often have such young guests staying at the hotel. He must have come to work on the new aerodrome. If he intended to stay at her family’s hotel for a while, he could at least be pleasant, she thought.
Ruth carried the pot of hot water to Frank’s table. “Will I heat up your tea?”
The young man glanced up at her and smiled. “No, thanks. I don’t suppose you have any coffee?”
She couldn’t help noticing his deep blue eyes. He looked younger when he smiled, and his eyes twinkled. “No, but Mummy’s getting what passes for it today. Do youse only drink coffee?”
“Yan – Americans.”
The creases at the corners of his eyes deepened. “No, but my family drink lots of it. And they like it strong. My Nana makes the best coffee in our neighbourhood.”
“Where’s that, then?”
“In New York.”
“My uncle George lives in New York. Maybe he lives near you.”
“Uhh, I don’t think so –”
“How do you know?”
“Where’s your uncle live?”
“That’s a big place.”
“He’s somewhere around 44th Street. Well, I’ve heard him tell the lads that it’s a place called Hell’s Kitchen. Mummy doesn’t like him saying it out loud – it doesn’t sound very respectable, but he says the neighbourhood is alright. He works at Penn Station.” She found it hard to imagine what a city with so many streets would be like.
“Oh, right.” Frank nodded at her but didn’t speak.
Goodness, it wasn’t easy getting him to talk. She had told him about her uncle, but he hadn’t told her much about himself in return. She would love to know more but it would be rude to ask directly.
Ruth lifted Frank’s empty plate and turned to leave. Another thought struck her; she paused, turning back to face the guest. “I hope you get your goods in okay so you can get started.”
“Goods?” Frank frowned at her.
“Aye, wood and iron and whatever else you need. There’s that many shipping vessels in the Atlantic attacked by the U-boats. You wouldn’t want to lose them. With all the Yanks in the town, you’ll want to make a start at it.”
“I, uhh, I don’t know what you mean. I’m here on some business.”
“Aye, I know. Building the aerodrome at Ely Lodge.”
Frank’s eyes widened and his mouth hung open. He opened and closed his mouth a couple times then spoke in a strangled tone. “How do you know that?”
“About any building plans?”
“Oh, everyone’s talking about it. We’re right glad the Yanks are here to help win the war.”
“The United States isn’t at war. I’m a civilian. I’m not involved in the war.”
“But you’re building a camp for the flying boats.”
Frank’s expression hardened and he glared at her. “My reasons for being here are my business. Maybe you should think before you speak.”
Ruth felt like she was a small child who had been slapped. The heat coursed into her cheeks. She opened her mouth to make a sharp reply, but she knew her mother would be annoyed if she was impertinent to a guest. She gripped the plate she was holding harder and threw a glance over her shoulder before she hurried away. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you.”
Excerpt from Dancing Shadows, Tramping Hooves:
Much More Than A Dancer
Catherine pushed through the crowd, away from the bar. She balanced the drinks with both hands. Shying away from a group of youths, laughing and jostling each other, she passed a compact, middle-aged man with short, greying hair. He was chatting with the man beside him.
Kevin Sullivan was the new bank manager, a widower who had moved to town a few months ago. Flustered, Catherine looked away, unsure whether she wanted him to notice her or not. She rushed past, keeping her eyes straight ahead and her face an inscrutable mask.
“Look at yon one,” the man beside Kevin said, nodding at Catherine. Kevin glanced at her, trying not to show any interest.
“Catherine Flannery. A rare sighting – she’s not often in McMahon’s,” Kevin replied. His square, lined face showed no expression. Many years in management had taught him how to avoid betraying his thoughts.
“Look at the set of her. Haughty. Heart like a stone,” Sean continued. Kevin sipped his drink without replying. His thick, wiry eyebrows rose slightly as his eyes followed her.
Catherine hurried back to her table, wishing she could disappear. Why am I so nervous, she chided herself. I’m nearly fifty and run my own farm. I should have more sense. But I really fell for Kevin at the Hunt Ball last month. He’s brilliant company and a great dancer. I get goose bumps when I think about how I felt when he held me and looked into my eyes. But I’m sure he barely remembers dancing with me.
“What?” Catherine realised that Mary was speaking to her. She set their glasses on the table and listened to her friend.
“Did Kevin not ask you to keep a dance for him?” Mary asked.
“Why would he?” Catherine replied, the flush spreading up from her neck to her entire face.
“I think he might have a notion of you,” Mary grinned.
“Don‘t be daft!”
“You could ask him for the Lady’s Choice. Or just be bold. Drag him away from Sean. Sure, he’d rather have you in his arms than stand chatting to that ould fella.”
Catherine was spared from answering. The band’s energetic introduction to their next number drowned out the women’s conversation. Her eyes scanned the hall, stopping when she spotted Kevin stepping onto the dance floor. Moving effortlessly, he began jiving with a thin, stylishly dressed woman, deftly pulling her towards him and out again. His firm arms spun her around then clasped her back to him in time to the music.
Wouldn’t you know that Eileen’s nabbed him, Catherine thought, with a quick stab of envy…