Sample text for A season of shadows / Paul McCusker.
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A Season of Shadows
Copyright © 2005 by Paul McCusker
Requests for information should be addressed to:
Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
McCusker, Paul, 1958 -
A season of shadows / by Paul McCusker.
1. London (England) -- History -- Bombardment, 1940 - 1941 -- Fiction.
2. World War, 1939 - 1945 -- England -- London -- Fiction. 3. Triangles
(Interpersonal relations) -- Fiction. 4. Americans -- England -- Fiction.
5. Women spies -- Fiction. 6. Widows -- Fiction. I. Title.
813'.54 -- dc22
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Interior design by Beth Shagene
Printed in the United States of America
05 06 07 08 09 10 11 / ?DCI / 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
A Place of Shadows
IT REALLY WAS TOO COLD TO HAVE A PARTY THAT NIGHT. FRESH FLAKES OF
January snow began to fall as the guests arrived at the colonial-style
brick home in Georgetown. They came bundled in their overcoats and
furs, hats and scarves, smelling of wet leather, imported cigarettes,
The burst of cold air through the front door chilled Julie Harris, and
with chattering teeth she exclaimed, "How marvelous to see you!" and
"It's so good of you to come!" and "What a marvelous hat!" and the
other obligatory things hostesses were expected to say.
Stewart, her husband, tuxedoed and dashing, put an arm around
her waist and whispered, "Darling, your lips are turning blue. Why
don't you go into the living room and stoke the fire or something?"
She went without objection, mingling as she did. Their house servant,
a fine Negro woman named Thelma, served hot toddies on an
engraved silver tray -- a gift from Stewart's great-aunt Betsy for their
A quartet of jazz musicians began to play in the corner around
the baby grand. Stewart's choice, as usual. His kind of music. Julie
didn't know most of the guests, friends of Stewart from the club he
frequented downtown. The Foggy Bottom Regulars, he called them.
"Don't you just love that music?" a woman in a flimsy black dress
asked, taking a drink from the tray as it passed. She had red lipstick
on her teeth. "Doesn't it make you want to dance?"
Julie smiled noncommittally. Truth be known, she didn't care
much for the new jazz music but never said so for fear of sounding
gauche. "I'm not much of a dancer," she said. "Two left feet."
The woman threw her head back with a throaty laugh, and Julie
realized she'd probably been to a party before this one, with a few
drinks there too. "You don't have to know how to dance to dance.
Just get out and move." She swung her hips and snapped her fingers,
pushing through the crowd to the center of the room.
A light kiss on Julie's cheek, and she turned to face William, her
younger brother. "Good evening."
"You came," she said, pleased, and gave his handsome form the
once-over. He had short light-brown hair and deep brown eyes, a thin
nose, and a lean muscular face. He wore a black dinner suit. "You
"Thank you." He leaned against the wall and watched the dancing
woman with an amused expression.
"Who is she?"
"Francine something-or-other," he said. "She likes to dance."
"So I see."
He eyed the room. "It looks like everyone from the club is here."
"I suppose so." Julie didn't go to Stewart's club very often. She'd
said she didn't enjoy all the noise, the sweat, and the smoke. In truth,
she often felt the club was Stewart's private domain, a place where
she wasn't entirely welcome, his one remaining indulgence from his
life before they married.
"Pretty wild, throwing a party at the last minute, Jules," William
said. "I barely had time to get dressed."
She shrugged. "It was Stewart's idea. Friday night and we had no
Stewart appeared and approached the dancing girl. She threw her
arms around him in greeting, then took his hands to dance with her.
He acquiesced. The crowd made room for them, rippling out in small
waves. Others joined in.
"I wish he wouldn't do that," William said. "If he's going to dance
with anyone, it should be you."
"Don't be so old-fashioned." But she was touched by his protectiveness.
He grunted. "I'm not being old-fashioned. You're being naive." He
pushed away from the wall and left the room.
The band played on, the dancers danced, and in the drawing
room a small group gathered for a heated argument about Hitler
and Germany, all the invasions, and whether America should support
Britain in their war. Some thought that neutral countries like
America couldn't afford to remain neutral. Stewart, who'd spent four
years drinking his way through a degree at Oxford, was surprisingly
silent, sitting with a mysterious smirk. Julie thought the whole discussion
tedious and escaped to the back porch to get some fresh air. The
snow, mixed with rain, fell heavily, and black ice covered the stairs.
Treacherous for driving. No one should be out tonight. Maybe she should
tell Thelma to ready the guest rooms.
Back in the kitchen, Stewart stood at the large wooden choppingblock
table, mixing a drink.
"Are you all right?" he asked as Julie entered, rubbing her temples.
"A slight headache."
He handed her the glass. "Try some of this. It'll cure what ails
"I'm not so sure."
"Some of us are going to the club."
"Don't, Stewart. Not tonight. It's nasty out there."
He shrugged as if to say, It'll take more than weather to stop us.
"Then I'm coming with you." She sipped the drink, sweet and
warm down the throat.
"Are you sure? I know you don't like it."
"I want to be with you."
"Drink that and we'll see how you feel." He kissed her on the forehead
and returned to the party.
Julie sighed and followed. It was past midnight and more people
seemed to crowd in now than in the hour before. She continued to
play the gracious hostess -- a hello here, a quick compliment about a
new hairstyle there. The men flirted -- about her dress, her looks. She
ducked and dodged, waving them off, blowing indifferent kisses. One
lecherous kid in a yellow cravat, with hair that smelled of cheap tonic
and breath of bad gin, cornered her for a quick embrace. Her usual
quips didn't disarm him, nor did her attempts to brush past him. The
last thing she wanted was a scene, but she'd have to get tough if he
didn't go away. Where was Stewart?
Robert Holloway suddenly appeared, tall, blond, and red-cheeked,
and put both hands on the boy's shoulders, forcefully spinning him
toward the door with a kick in his pants. "Scram!" he growled.
Dear Robert. And then things became terribly fuzzy. That drink
was quite potent. Robert guided her to a sofa in the den. The room
spun -- or was it her head?
"Is something wrong, Julie?" Robert asked, his Carolina accent as
gentle as his eyes.
She nodded. "Oh, dear." She put her head back onto a pillow that
seemed to appear from nowhere. She closed her eyes and time slipped
away. She thought she heard the clock chime on the mantel. Was that
one chime or two? A pair of strong arms lifted her up.
"Upsy-daisy," Stewart said.
"What are you doing?" She kept her eyes closed and leaned her
head against his chest. She could feel the satin on his lapel. She lifted
her head toward his neck. His body smelled of that new French
cologne he'd taken a fancy to wearing. She couldn't remember the
"I'm putting you to bed." She was floating, drifting up the wide
staircase and down the dark hall. The quartet started a Fats Waller
number, "Two Sleepy People." It made her giggle.
With half-lidded eyes, Julie looked up at her husband, trying to
focus on his movie-star face. Errol Flynn, with the wavy hair and
pencil moustache. Then they were in the darkness of the bedroom,
and Stewart deposited her onto their four-poster bed.
She giggled again and he leaned over her. "There you are, darling."
"What did you put in that drink?" she slurred.
"A little of this and that."
"But I can't go to bed now." She made an effort to prop herself up
on her elbows but couldn't seem to muster the basic motor skills to
"It's well past your bedtime," he said softly.
Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
London (England) -- History -- Bombardment, 1940-1941 -- Fiction.
Triangles (Interpersonal relations) -- Fiction.
World War, 1939-1945 -- England -- Fiction.
Americans -- England -- Fiction.
Women spies -- Fiction.
Widows -- Fiction.