A World Away: Chapter 1
Charlaine Harris owns these characters.
I was tired and afraid. But I was getting used to those feelings. I had been captured by a small band of German soldiers and I had no idea where I was. I suspected that I was still in France, but my main concern every day was simply staying alive.
I was an Army nurse with the 164th General Hospital for detached service. I worked on hospital trains that picked up wounded soldiers from the front. When soldiers were injured they were first treated in a field station where triage was performed. Then they were transferred to the hospital train and taken to Cherbourg to board a hospital ship to be transported safely away from the fighting. I worked on the hospital trains, treating the wounded and preparing them for transfer. I knew that we were often dangerously close to the front lines, but I had become accustomed to our routine and as odd as it sounds now, I was fairly comfortable with the level of danger I was in on most days. The Americans had only landed at Normandy a couple of months before I arrived, and parts of France were still unstable.
I kicked myself every day for my stupidity at getting captured. Maybe because I had become so used to my routine, I had forgotten just how dangerous it could be. At a scheduled stop, we boarded the four casualties and saw to their treatment. They were all stable and cared for. My friend Tara and I had developed the habit of searching the immediate area for fresh fruit or better yet, fresh eggs from the local farms whenever the opportunity presented itself. I had been on just such a mission. I had filled my hat with the eggs and was headed back to the waiting train when I heard whispers in the surrounding trees. I froze and quickly felt the unmistakable sensation of a gun in my back. I dropped the hat and raised my hands. My brain registered the loss of the eggs before it deciphered the level of danger I was now in. We silently marched away from where the train waited and my heart raced as my fate became more and more uncertain.
That was four days ago. Since then, I have been the captive of this small group of soldiers who have set up a makeshift camp in the woods. I speak no German, but they made it clear to me immediately that I was to treat a wounded officer who seemed to be their leader. He had been shot in the leg and so could no longer walk. The seven men who took care of him set up a tent and a camp and found me. I suspected that my survival depended on the officer’s recovery and because I had limited medical supplies, I did my best but also threw in a good measure of prayer that he would heal.
He told me that his name was Andre, but I knew little else. He was young with a small frame—had almost a boyish look to him. I wouldn’t describe him as kind, really, but I had not been harmed or raped, as I had feared. I was allowed to sleep in the tent on the floor beside him. I was fed regularly, but dreaded every time I needed to use the bathroom, as I was constantly watched by one of the soldiers. It’s hard to go with a stranger pointing a gun staring at you as you squat over a hole. I hoped that Andre was improving and would live, but then I wondered what these men had in store for me. As long as I was valuable as Andre’s caretaker, I was kept alive. I feared what would happen when I was no longer needed.
I was lying on the floor of the tent, trying to sleep when I let my mind wander to a happier time. I thought of a night a long time ago in Atlanta when I was doing my nurse’s training at Emory and I met a handsome young student named Eric Northman. Eric was training at Georgia Tech to become a pilot. Everyone knew that we would most likely enter the war at some point, and so everyone it seemed was preparing for service, planning their place in the inevitable. Had I been a man, I would have wanted to be a pilot. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to him. Or maybe it was because he was so extremely handsome.
I had gone to the dance with a group of girlfriends. The band was wonderful. The room was filled with eager young men scanning the tables of pretty girls. Like most of us, I danced a lot that night. It seemed that every time a song would end and I would turn to head back to my table, there would be yet another boy asking for a dance. I was just about to accept the hand of such a boy when a deep voice said, “Actually, I believe she promised this one to me.” I turned to the voice to object, knowing that I had done no such thing, when my voice caught in my throat. I was rendered speechless by the most intensely blue eyes I had ever seen. They were twinkling with a teasing look that made it hard to be mad. Before I knew what I was doing, I confirmed the ridiculous lie to the boy who had my hand and placed that same hand into the waiting hand of the blue-eyed boy. I mumbled an apology as the rejected boy walked away, and let myself be led to the dance floor, never taking my eyes off of the handsome face that was smiling broadly at me.
He was very tall and blond with chiseled features and a lean muscular physique. I couldn’t help but notice how hard his shoulder felt as my hand rested on it and my waist seemed to burn at the touch of his hand on it. I looked at our clasped hands, at how his long masculine fingers gently grasped my own and followed his arm up to his neck and finally let my eyes be captured once again by that icy blue stare. He smiled gently as we swayed to the music. He seemed so strong and confident, and I felt like I would melt into a puddle of mush. My whole body seemed to be electrified by his closeness. It was as if no one else was in the room with us. I had never felt so intensely physically impacted by the touch of a man before. He leaned a little closer to my face and I wondered if I was blushing. Then it registered that he was waiting for me to say something, and I realized that he had asked me a question and I hadn’t even heard him. I looked from his eyes down to his perfect lips as he smiled and asked again, “What’s your name?”
“Sookie. Sookie Stackhouse.”
“It’s nice to meet you.”
“It’s nice to meet you as well.” He leaned closer and his cheek barely brushed against mine as his body danced a little closer to me. I closed my eyes and breathed in his scent as I felt little butterflies dancing in my stomach and a deep heat building a little further down. These were all new sensations to me and I felt overwhelmed. I shifted my hand from his shoulder to the back of his neck, letting him know that I wanted him closer. He responded by gently rubbing my cheek with his own and moving his thumb along my finger.
We danced like that for four or five songs in spite of the fact that they were not all slow songs. Finally, as the band announced it was time to take a break, he asked if I would like to get something to drink and maybe some fresh air. I didn’t want to ever leave his arms, but I said yes as we headed for the terrace.