Authors: Bonnie Leon
Tags: #FIC042030, #FIC042040, #FIC027050, #Women air pilots—Fiction, #Alaska—Fiction
Â© 2012 by Bonnie Leon
Published by Revell
a division of Baker Publishing Group
P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
Ebook edition created 2012
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any meansâfor example, electronic, photocopy, recordingâwithout the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.
Scripture used in this book, whether quoted or paraphrased by the characters, is taken from the King James Version of the Bible.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Published in association with the Books & Such Literary Agency, 52 Mission Circle, Suite 122, PMB 170, Santa Rosa, CA 95409-5370,
The internet addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers in this book are accurate at the time of publication. They are provided as a resource. Baker Publishing Group does not endorse them or vouch for their content or permanence.
To my brother, Bruce, an Alaskan
who may have been born 100 years too late.
ate stared into the church mirror and recited the name once more. “Mrs. Paul Anderson.” She'd tried on the name many times, and in less than an hour it would truly be hers. This all felt like a dream. She'd thought she'd lost him. And now she was about to become Paul's wife.
She turned to the side and smoothed her floor-length gown. Her dear friend, Muriel Stevens, had convinced her to use a little extra makeup, and she'd made sure her hair was perfectly coiffed. Still, she looked like Kate Evansâtall and athletic, her auburn hair peeking out from beneath a veil and hazel eyes vibrant with anticipation. “Kate Anderson. Mrs. Paul Anderson.”
February 26, 1938, would draw a line in Kate's history, one that stated she'd never be the same. She'd still be Kate the bush pilot who loved a challenge, but she'd also be Paul's wife .Â .Â . She'd be better because he shared her life, but she was a little frightened. She didn't know how to be someone's wife. Kate smiled at her image and almost giggled. Poor Paul. It wouldn't be easy on him while she learned to relinquish some of her independence.
Kate glanced at the clockâthirty minutes. Nerves skittered up and down her spine, tickled her arms, and made her stomach flip. What kind of wife
she be? Kate thought of her mother. She was strong and supportive, always thinking of others. She knew how to do all the wifely things. She could sew up a dress in a day if needed and the food on her table was always delicious. Kate knew she'd never be that kind of wife. She barely knew how to cook and Paul was better at sewing than she was. Plus being submissive wasn't something that came naturally. Paul knew that and he wanted to marry her anyway. A swell of joy rose up inside Kate. It wouldn't be long now.
She let out a sigh. If only her parents could be here. Over the years she and her mother had talked about what her wedding would be like. Kate had always imagined that her parents would be part of this momentous day. Poor apple sales had put a stranglehold on their budget and drained most of their savings. There was no extra money for a trip to Alaska. Albert Towns, one of her first friends in the territory, would walk her down the aisle. He was as close to a father as she had here in Alaska.
The bangs Muriel had carefully combed to the side fell into Kate's eyes. She pushed them back in place and considered using one of the pins that held the tiny flowers in her veil to clip them.
She folded her arms over her chest. No. She was still plain Kate, a pilot who didn't care about what her bangs were doing.
She envisioned Paulâtall and broad shouldered, with coffee-colored hair and serious brown eyes. When he laughed, they'd brighten, and when he looked at her, they gentled. She loved to hear him laugh. Wonder engulfed her. She was about to marry the most amazing man in the world. But he was a man with a secret. She felt a quiver of uncertainty, but brushed it aside. She loved him. Questions and answers were for another day.
She turned her back to the mirror so she could see if the ribbon hung properly. The gown swept slightly longer in back than the front. She smoothed the soft peach lace that lay over the satin taffeta slip lining. Muriel and Helen had tried to talk her into a white gown, but Kate wanted something different. She'd never considered herself beautiful, but this gown made the most of her features and her figure. She imagined Paul's expression when he saw her and a breath caught in her throat.
“Oh, how I love you,” she whispered, feeling happiness she'd never known. They would work out their differences. It might not be easy but they'd find a way. He was still afraid of losing her in a flying accident, but he'd said she could fly when and where she wanted, no strings. Kate knew she'd have to make some compromises. After today she'd never be just Kate, a woman who made her own choices and didn't answer to anyone, except God. She and Paul would be forever bonded and what affected one would affect the other.
Again, her bangs dropped into her eyes. She removed a pin from her veil and secured them. She picked up her bouquet made of daisies, white asters, and tiny pink roses, then stepped back and studied herself in the full-length mirror. Today she
She glanced at the clock. It was nearly time.
The door opened and Muriel stepped in. She beamed. “You look absolutely stunning.”
Kate made a small twirl. “You think so?”
“Absolutely.” She smiled, but there was hesitation in her blue eyes.
“Is everything all right?” Kate asked.
“Of course.” Muriel compressed her lips.
“How is Paul? Is he nervous?”
Muriel glanced at the door. With a small shrug, she said, “I'm .Â .Â . not sure. I mean, how can you tell, really?”
Kate knew Muriel was keeping something from her. Apprehension stirred in her heart. “You haven't talked to him?”
Muriel moved to Kate and placed her hands on Kate's shoulders. “Now, don't get upset, I'm sure there's an explanation.”
“Upset about what? An explanation for what?” Apprehension exploded into fear.
“Well .Â .Â . Paul's not here yet.”
“What? But the ceremony begins in a few minutes. He has to be here. Are you sure?”
“Yes.” Again Muriel's eyes wandered toward the door. “It's snowing hard. I'm sure he's on his way. It's the weather. That's all.”
“He's only coming from the hotel. That's not more than fifteen minutes' drive.”
Muriel pressed her hands together and changed the subject. “Everything else is ready. The church looks absolutely gorgeous. Mrs. Simpson did a wonderful job with the flowers. Bless her for donating flowers from her hothouse.” She lifted her brows and smiled playfully. “And in spite of my mother and Sassa's differences about decorating the reception room, they managed to come to agreement and everything looks lovely.”
Kate didn't care about the decorations. She needed to know what had happened to Paul. Where was he?
“Wait until you see the cake. It's gorgeous. The church is packedâ”
“Paul should be here.” Kate moved to the door, opened it slightly, and looked down the short hallway that led to the church foyer. The murmur of voices carried from the vestibule. “Did he call?”
“Not that I know of.” Muriel's hand fluttered over her lace collar. “Don't worry, Kate. He'll be here.”
Not worry? How could she not worry? “What if something happened?”
“I'm sure we would have heard.”
If he was safe, then what had happened? As long as Kate had known Paul he'd been afraid to love anyone. It had been nearly seven years since his wife's death, and since then he'd held his heart in check .Â .Â . until now. Maybe he'd changed his mind. Kate turned and looked at Muriel. Her voice tight, she asked, “What if he doesn't want to get married?”
“Of course he does,” Muriel twittered. “He loves you.”
“I know .Â .Â . but he's had trouble .Â .Â . you know, with my flying and the loss of his wife.”
“That's all behind him.” Muriel sounded too cheerful. “I'm sure it's this terrible weather. Why, it's nearly a blizzard out there.”
“You said the church is full. Everyone else managed to get here.” Kate paced. “A little wind and snow wouldn't keep him away.”
“Well, whatever it is, I'm sure he has a good reason.” Muriel glanced at the clock. “It's not quite time yet.”
“He should have been here thirty minutes ago.” Kate could hear the strident tone in her voice and hated that she'd allowed her distress to show. She pressed her hands together and took a deep breath. Instead of achieving calm, her mind returned to how she'd called off her wedding to Richard three years ago, one week before they were to be married. If she'd done it, Paul might. People changed their minds about things every day.
But he loves me. I know it.
The door opened and Muriel's mother, Helen, and Paul's native neighbor, Sassa, stepped into the room. Sassa ambled across the floor, her face aglow. She pressed chubby hands on Kate's cheeks. “You are beautiful!”
Helen gazed at her. “You're stunning, dear.”
“Thank you. Is Paul here yet?”
The two women glanced at each other. “No. Not yet. But I'm sure he's on his way,” Helen said.
Kate walked to the door, opened it, and looked out. “He's not coming. I know it. He's changed his mind.”
Helen stepped up to Kate, encircled an arm around her waist, and closed the door. Her voice calm, she said, “You wouldn't want him to see you before the wedding. He'll be here. I'm certain of it. He'd never change his mind.” She took Kate's hands. “He loves you.”
“He does, but you know how hard he's struggled to allow himself to care. Ever since his wifeâ”
Helen put a finger to Kate's lips. “Now, no more of that. You're about to marry Paul. You've got to have faith in him. He'll do the right thing. He'd never desert you. Never.” She led Kate to the mirror. “How could he resist you?” She smiled, her eyes alight.
Kate wished she possessed Helen's serenity. “What if something's happened to him? What if he's been in an accident?”
“Albert and Patrick have gone out to check the roads, but I'm sure he's fine.”
Sassa picked up Kate's bouquet and handed it to her. “Let's see how you look.” She stepped back. “Perfect.” She smiled.
Kate fought tears. No matter how much her friends tried to encourage her, she knewâPaul had changed his mind.
Bundled deep inside his coat, Paul paced the train station platform. Although his hood was pulled snugly around his face, icy wind swept down his neck. He kept his eyes on the track to the south. The train was late. He glanced at his watch. He was supposed to be at the church. He imagined Kate, waiting and distressed. The thought made him sick to his stomach. When he'd insisted on everyone keeping the secret, he never meant to hurt her. He'd been foolish. As soon as he knew there was a delay, he should have told her about the surprise. This was the day they'd waited for, dreamed about. And now he'd ruined it.
He strode inside the depot and to the ticket window. “Any word on the train from Seward?”
The clerk shrugged. “In weather like this, ya never know. She'll get here when she gets here.”
She'll get here when she gets here?
Paul's frustration nearly boiled over, but he clamped his mouth shut and walked away from the counter. He glanced at the clock. The ceremony was supposed to begin now. He stormed out to the platform and resumed pacing. He had envisioned Kate in her bridal gown, her eyes aglow with love and expectation. Tall and graceful, she'd look stunning as she walked down the aisle. He'd imagined it, dreamed of it. And now everything had gone wrong. Instead of anticipation, she must be feeling abandoned, afraid, angry. The last thing he wanted was to hurt her.
I'm sorry, Katie. So sorry.
Wind whipped at his hood. This was intolerable. He'd have to leave. And then a train whistle echoed. He stared down the tracks, standing on the edge of the platform, willing the train to appear. And then he saw it, belching steam and chugging toward the station. Paul's tense muscles released.
The train rolled into the station. He watched the windows, searching for Kate's parents, but he didn't see either one. They'd sent a wire. They were supposed to be on this train.
The engine clanked to a stop with a loud whoosh. Steam billowed, swirling around the train. Paul stepped down from the platform and walked alongside the cars, watching the faces of passengers as they disembarked. And then he saw them. Bill waved and Joan clutched her husband's arm.
Thank you, Lord.
Paul strode toward them.
Bill held out his hand. “Thought we'd never make it.” He clapped Paul on the back. “I've never seen so much snow in all my life.”
Joan gave Paul a quick hug. “We're late, aren't we? I can't believe we held up your wedding. Kate must be beside herself.”
“She doesn't even know you're coming.”
“You didn't tell her we'd been delayed?”
“I wanted it to be a surprise. I was sure you'd make it on time.”
Joan clasped her hands together and pressed them to her chest. “She doesn't know where you are?”
“No. She doesn't.”
Joan shook her head side to side. “Oh my. She must be in an absolute fret. Her groom hasn't shown up.”
“I should have told her. I feel awful. But I thought it would work out. We better get a move on.”
After getting the luggage, Paul loaded the bags into the trunk of the Towns' car while Joan and Bill climbed in.