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Authors: Bonnie Leon

Wings of Promise

BOOK: Wings of Promise
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© 2011 by Bonnie Leon

Published by Revell

a division of Baker Publishing Group

P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287

www.revellbooks.com

E-book edition created 2011

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

ISBN 978-1-4412-3272-4

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 New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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,
www.booksandsuch.biz
.

Dedicated to

Gayle Ranney—

a woman who followed her dream.

— 1 —

K
ate pulled her Plymouth coupe to the side of the road in front of the Townses’ place. They were good friends, and she was thankful for their invitation to share Christmas with them. Still, she was unable to hold back a sigh as she turned off the ignition. Bear Creek, with Paul, would have been more fun, but frigid temperatures had cornered her in Anchorage. She knew better than to count on anything when it came to the weather in Alaska.

She sat in the car a few minutes to rein in her thoughts. The calendar said December 25, but without Paul, it didn’t feel like Christmas. It was to be their first Christmas together as a couple. They’d planned a celebration with a tree, gifts, and dinner. And maybe even a trip up Bear Creek on the sled with the dogs. Kate had imagined a romantic evening huddled together, sipping hot chocolate and gazing at a glittering Alaskan sky. They’d talk about their future and with any luck share the beauty of northern lights dancing across the sky.

Maybe she could get Sidney’s permission to use the shop’s radio to call Patrick out on the creek. Paul would most likely be there. Would calling him be too forward?

Maybe we can celebrate the New Year together
. It was almost as good as spending Christmas with each other. According to predictions, there was reason to rejoice—1937 might be the year the country actually crawled out of the ruinous depression.

Her thoughts turned to family in Washington. They’d be celebrating with friends in Yakima. She could still hear the veiled melancholy in her mother’s cheery voice when they’d talked that morning. She missed them.

Kate reached out and patted her dog, Angel. “You ready for a party?”

The husky/malamute mix answered with a wag of her tail and a small bark.

“Okay, then.” Kate stepped out of the car and Angel followed. Clutching a bag of gifts, she carefully made her way up the frozen path leading to the front door. She knocked and waited. Helen had said Mike Conlin would be here. Just the thought of spending time with him made Kate ill at ease. She and Mike had been good friends from the first day they’d met back in the summer of 1935 when she’d first arrived in Anchorage. He’d been the one who had introduced her to Alaska and piloting in the territory. But since she’d refused his marriage proposal two months ago he’d been distant and reserved. She missed the camaraderie between them and knew spending the day with him would be awkward. If only she were with Paul.

The door swung open and Albert Towns greeted Kate with a broad smile. “We were beginning to think you weren’t going to make it.” He swept a hand over thinning hair where he was nearly bald in front. He pulled her into his arms.

Albert’s happiness was contagious, and Kate felt the joy of the season envelop her. He was more father than landlord. “Sorry I’m late.”

“Angel. Good to see you, girl.” Albert buried a hand in the dog’s thick coat.

“I hope you don’t mind my bringing her. I just couldn’t bear to leave her home alone on Christmas.”

“She’s always welcome here.”

Helen joined Albert, her pale blue eyes sparkling with Christmas delight. “Kate, dear. Come in. It’s freezing out there.” She ushered Kate inside. “Did you hear President Roosevelt’s address on the radio this morning?”

“No. I didn’t get a chance. My parents called.”

“How are they?”

“They’re well.”

Truly they were fine, but Kate also knew that Christmas without her had created a hollow place for them. Holidays had always been a special time for family. If only there was a way to spend the holiday together. Maybe one day she’d convince her parents that Alaska was a fine place for them to live.

“Next time you speak with them say hello for me.” Helen rested a hand on Kate’s back. “I do wish you’d heard the president’s speech. I just love his fireside chats. And this morning’s was especially inspirational—so encouraging during these hard times. And it was very kind of him to speak to the country on Christmas morning.”

“I think I heard that one before,” Albert said, his voice laced with sarcasm. He closed the door. “Figure it was a recording. Kate, let me hang up your coat for you.”

Kate set down her bag, pulled off her gloves and stuffed them into the pockets of her parka, and then handed the coat to Albert. Combing her fingers through her short auburn bob to fluff flattened hair, she stepped into a cozy living room. Warmth and the mingled aroma of sweet rolls and roasting meat greeted her. “Whatever’s cooking smells fabulous.”

“That’s my Helen,” Albert said, draping an arm around his wife.

Mike, who had been sitting on the sofa, stood. Surprisingly, he wore a smile and his casual stance had returned. “Afternoon, Kate. Good to see you.”

“Hi.” She put on her friendliest face.

Angel padded across the floor to greet Mike.

“Hello, girl.” He gave her a good rubdown, and then walked toward Kate.

She stiffened, not certain what to expect.

Mike stopped just out of arm’s reach. “We were thinking we’d have to eat without you.” He gave her a quick hug. “It’s good to see you.”

“I’m glad to be here. This should be fun.” She dropped her tight shoulders and let out a relieved breath, puzzled over Mike’s change but thankful for it. “It’d be a tragedy to miss one of Helen’s meals.” Kate realized she was happy to be there. These people were more than friends—they were family. She’d only been in Alaska for a year and a half, but they already shared a history together.

“I had a few things to take care of.” Wearing a wry grin, she held up the bag of gifts. “Left my Christmas wrapping to the last minute.” She glanced at a small fir standing in a corner of the room, then asked Helen, “Do you want these under the tree?”

Mike reached for the bag. “I’ll do that for you.”

Kate held it out of his reach. “Oh, no you don’t.”

“You get me something?” He cocked an eyebrow and grinned.

“You’ll have to wait and see.” Her step light, Kate headed for the tree. She wondered what Paul was doing. Did he have a tree? She doubted it. Maybe next year they’d have one together . . . if they were married. The thought set off a thrill inside Kate and she couldn’t suppress a smile.

The little fir was festooned with shiny glass balls and homemade ornaments. Kate gazed at it, envisioning the tree she knew stood in her parents’ living room. They always put up a large, stately pine. She fingered a smiling snowman. “Helen, did you make the decorations?”

“Some of them. Muriel did quite a few.” She glanced about. “She must be in the kitchen.”

Kate removed packages from the bag and added them to those already stashed beneath the boughs. She straightened and looked out the window. “The snow has started again.”

“It wouldn’t be Christmas without snow.” Helen stood at the front window, her hands stuffed into the pockets of her apron. “It makes everything look brand new.”

The Townses’ daughter, Muriel, and her husband, Terrence, stepped into the front room. “Hi, Kate.” Muriel blew damp, blonde hair off her forehead and wiped her hands on an apron. “So glad you made it. Mom’s whipped up a great meal.”

Helen smiled at her daughter, her eyes brighter than usual. “You’ve done as much of the cooking as I have.”

Kate thought Helen looked especially happy, even for Christmas. “From what I hear, Muriel, you’re as good a cook as your mother.”

Helen moved to her daughter’s side and circled an arm around her, pulling her close. “She’s better.” Beaming, Helen continued, “I know I’m supposed to wait until after dinner, but I just can’t.” She glanced at her daughter. “We have news.”

Muriel slid a sideways look at her mother and smiled, a dimple appearing on her right cheek. “Go ahead.”

Helen didn’t speak up immediately, and then she blurted, “I’m going to be a grandmother!”

“A baby? How wonderful!” Kate said. “I’m so happy for you.” She couldn’t help but think about her and Paul. He’d make a good father.

Muriel rested a hand on her abdomen. “I’m not very far along.” She glanced at her husband. “I’m thankful we moved back to Alaska. Now I’ll be close to Mom and Dad when the baby gets here.”

Helen gave her another squeeze.

“Congratulations,” Mike said, his voice sounding less than celebratory. He glanced at Kate.

What was he thinking, that they should be married and beginning a family? Kate turned her gaze back to Muriel. Being a mother and wife was what Muriel had always wanted. Kate was happy for her.

Terrence smiled and pushed wire-rimmed glasses farther up on the bridge of his nose. “It’s a lot of responsibility, having a family. But we always hoped to have children.”

Muriel moved to her husband and snuggled against him as he draped an arm around her slender shoulders. Her blue eyes, so like her mother’s, shone with delight.

What if it were her and Paul making such an announcement? Kate allowed her thoughts to stray, wondering what that would be like. She’d never given it much consideration. Her career had always been foremost on her mind. Kate forced herself to rein in her thoughts. Paul hadn’t even asked her to marry him, not yet anyway. And they hadn’t seen each other since they’d proclaimed their love for one another weeks ago.

She looked up to find Mike staring at her. Even though he’d put on a friendly façade, Kate could see his sadness. He’d hoped to share his life with her. He loved her, but she could only see him as a good friend.

A spark of fear ignited in Kate. Could that happen between her and Paul? His wife had been gone for almost six years. And there was something about his past she knew gnawed at him. He hadn’t told her what it was. Could it affect their relationship? Kate was the first woman he’d allowed himself to care for since Susan’s death. Was it possible he regretted his declaration of love?
No
, Kate told herself. The last time they’d spoken on the radio he’d been just as excited about their Christmas celebration as she was.

But things could change. She knew that. She’d walked out on an engagement with Richard, her lifelong friend in Yakima. They’d been buddies and then somewhere along the way, they’d fallen in love. But he wanted an ordinary life with an ordinary wife. She wanted more.

When she’d canceled their wedding only one week before the ceremony and then flown off to Alaska, she feared he’d never forgive her. But time had healed the wound. He’d sent a Christmas card with a chatty letter. To have his friendship now was comforting. She’d write to him first chance.

Everything was as it should be. She had Paul now. They were a good match, and one day they’d get married. She was certain of it.

“I hope everyone’s hungry,” Helen said. She walked to the door between the front room and the kitchen. “Dinner’s ready.” She stood there while everyone filed past, opening her arms as if guiding a flock of sheep into the large dining area off the kitchen.

Albert placed a platter laden with a golden brown turkey on the table. Helen and Muriel set out the rest of the feast. Kate settled onto a chair at the table and Mike took one beside her. Angel investigated the delicious smells emanating from the table.

“This isn’t for you, girl,” Kate said, her voice uncompromising. “Go lay down.” The dog ambled to a corner between the kitchen and back door and settled on a colorful braided rug.

Mike elbowed Kate. “You should get some of Helen and Muriel’s recipes. You can try them out on me.”

Mike seemed overly friendly. Was he just trying to recapture the closeness they’d had before? “You know I’m not a cook,” Kate said, thinking she ought to learn. One day she might need to know how to prepare a meal like this. “There’s not much room for cooking in my tiny apartment anyway.” She glanced at Albert and Helen, who leased the room to her. “I love it, though. It’s cozy.”

“It’s small,” Albert said. “We’d sure understand if you wanted to move.”

“I enjoy living there.” She rested her arms on the table. “I do hope to get a place of my own one day. But since my plane is sitting at the bottom of a lake—”

“I can still barely believe that you crashed into that lake,” Muriel said. “And then survived out in that wilderness all those days.”

Kate’s mind flitted back to the accident that had nearly taken her and Nena’s lives. They never would have made it if not for Mike and Paul’s persistence. Kate would never forget the flood of relief and joy she’d felt when she saw them emerge from the forest.

“It was awful, but we made it.” Kate smiled. “But my savings will have to go to replacing the plane. After I’m back in the air, I’ll rebuild my bank account.”

“The room is yours as long as you need,” Helen said.

“Thanks. I’ll be there awhile. But I do have a line on a plane—a Bellanca Pacemaker just like the one I cracked up, only two years newer.”

“No need to worry about flying today,” Mike said. “Even Sidney took time off.”

“Oh?” Helen set a Jell-O salad on the table. “Where is he?”

“Out at Kenai. Couldn’t wait to see his parents and that passel of nieces and nephews of his.” Mike leaned back in his chair. “He’s a family man at heart. Should have had one of his own.” He eyed Kate. “Never did understand why he stayed single.”

“He loves flying and managing the airport.” Kate picked up her fork. “He works harder than we do, and our kind of work takes everything we’ve got. There’s not much time for family.” She glanced at Muriel. When she’d first set out to be a pilot, any sacrifice seemed worth it. Now she wasn’t so sure. If she became Mrs. Paul Anderson, she’d have to reconsider some of her convictions about flying.

Helen placed her napkin on her lap. “I think a person can have a career and a family.” She sat beside Albert. “We’ve worked the store for years and managed quite well.” She smiled at her daughter.

Muriel flipped blonde hair off her shoulder. “I remember hanging out at the store after school. I loved helping.”

“You and your friends were more interested in raiding the candy jar than you were in working,” Albert said with a grin.

“That’s not true.” Muriel smirked. “Well, not completely. I must confess to eating more than my share of buttercreams.”

“It’s been a struggle—both of us working.” Albert took Helen’s hand and kissed it. “But we did it together and we’ve had a good life.”

BOOK: Wings of Promise
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ads

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