A Russian Night Witch searching for her place in the world. An American soldier fighting against evil. Can they combine their strengths in time to defeat Hitler?

After a near-death mission and ultimately grounded from flying with her fellow Night Witches, Lilyann Volkov helps the Resistance until she can return to the skies. Uncovering vital information that could turn the tide of war for the Allies, she makes a fatal mistake and crashes again. Before the Norse goddess Freyja can find her and offer her a new life, her soul attaches itself to a handsome soldier.

Charles Duquesne is an American soldier with a go-get-’em attitude and a secret. He sees spirits walking the Earth and, after a lifetime of denial, must embrace his ability and accept their help in the war effort. When he is fatally shot, Freyja forces him to accept the drink of immortality, which saves not only himself but also the beautiful Night Witch he’d just buried.

No longer knowing what is reality and what is not, Lilyann and Charles embark on a quest to discover who is weaving magical chaos into the human war. Will they be able to stop the forward march of the Third Reich or is the German war machine unstoppable?

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Prologue

Idunn's Cottage, Asgard

Freyja stopped under the vine-covered archway leading into her best friend's yard and stared in confusion at the sight in front of her. Sitting in her designated chair at Idunn's small table was her twin brother, Freyr. Across from him, Idunn leaned forward and laughed at something he said, the sound reminiscent of glass wind chimes tinkling. As usual, Idunn's laughter lightened the constant worry weighing her down, and Freyja couldn't help but wonder what he had said. She knew he could be charming but rarely saw that side of him. He was her brother, after all. Studying Idunn's glowing face, she decided she had never seen her so lovely and felt the beginning strands of dread appear. She hoped whatever was making her best friend so happy wasn't because of Freyr.

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Throughout Asgard and the other Nine Worlds, ladies swarmed around him, no matter the race. His handsome face and quiet manner seemed to draw everyone to him. Not a day passed that he couldn't have his choice by his side. Although, she doubted they were anywhere but in his bed. How could Idunn fall for that? They had sworn off men together, even going so far as to perform a ritual.

Freyja tilted her head and chewed on her bottom lip as Freyr leaned in, his hand resting momentarily over Idunn's. Feeling more like an intruder, she immediately turned to leave.

"Freyja, come join us!" Idunn's musical voice stopped her forward motion, and she slowly turned to face them once more.

Freyja shook her head. "No, I wouldn't want to interrupt whatever this is." She waved her hand toward the table, for the first time noticing the steaming teapot and tray of muffins. Out of thin air, a dessert plate appeared, and Idunn placed it in front of the empty chair between them. A muffin floated from the top of the mound to land in the center of the small plate. Beside it, a cup and saucer also appeared, and Idunn gracefully poured the steaming tea. The hint of lavender filled Freyja's nostrils, easing some of the stress gripping her heart.

"Come and sit," Idunn requested. Lifting her topaz gaze, it was easy for Freyja to read the worry in their depths.

With a small sigh, she forced her feet to move toward the table and sat, resting her folded hands in her lap and stared at the muffin. Of course, Idunn would provide her with her favorite—apple strudel. Now, all she needed was butter. In a blink, the muffin divided into two parts, the small chunks of cinnamon-coated fruit disappearing under a thick layer of warm, yellow deliciousness.

Her mouth watered, and she was powerless to stop herself from reaching for it. At least that's what she told herself as she bit into the decadent treat. Chewing, she rolled her eyes, closing them with a low moan. "So delicious and just what I needed."

"I know."

Freyja pretended not to notice the inflection of smug satisfaction in Idunn's tone. After taking a second bite, she carefully placed the muffin back on the plate and dropped her hand back onto her lap. "So, I didn't realize you two were on such good terms." She met her brother's pointed stare then turned her own sharp gaze to Idunn, who had the sense to not look up.

"Let's just say, we are getting reacquainted with one another." Freyr held her gaze. "I have been away for quite some time and felt the need to talk to someone. Idunn always made such delicious treats; how could I not come by for a visit, sister." The last word said with a distinct bite to it. "What did you come here for?"

Freyja pressed her lips together, but the slight twitch refused to be controlled. She rolled her eyes. "Fine, I came here for the same reason."

Idunn reached over and patted Freyja's clasped hands. "Of course, you did, dear." She leaned back, mimicking Freyja. "Now, tell us what's wrong. You've been less stressed since Raisa was able to drain some of Ă“Ă°inn's power."

"That was more than three months ago. Quite enough time for stress to build back up—just like his power, I'm afraid. We need to think of how to get Raisa close enough to siphon more of his power without his knowing, which will be next to impossible since he seems to know everything." Turning her gaze to her brother, she studied his familiar face and noticed his slightly fuzzy locks, the normally unruly mane now tamed back into a neat ponytail. She frowned, studying the auburn strands lying over one shoulder. What's gotten into him?

"Freyja, what's gotten into you?"

Shaking herself from her wayward thoughts, she answered Idunn's question with a shrug, noticing the worry in the swirling blue depths of her best friend's gaze. "Truthfully, I have no clue. The end of the year on Midgard is speeding toward us, and there's an unsettled sensation growing inside me."

"Take a deep breath and focus. Your concern for Natalya's sister has grown over the past couple of months. Does this feeling have something to do with Lilyann?" Idunn's steady gaze held hers as both she and Freyr waited for an answer. The silence in the glen lengthened, a heaviness weighing on her shoulders and down her back as she replayed the events from the God's Glass—those same events that had driven her here in the first place.

She exhaled and picked up her teacup. Blowing over the cooled liquid, steam once more appeared, and she sipped the reheated tea. "I believe so. I witnessed a disturbing scene in the Glass and came here straightaway. I'm not sure what it meant."

"Explain it, sister," Freyr said. "Every detail."

She gulped down the hot liquid, relishing the slight burn as it descended along her throat. She set the empty teacup on the table. "As you know, the battle in the Belgian Ardennes Forest is underway, and it's not going well for the Allied army. Until the American commander realizes what he's up against and sends in help, the Germans will retain the upper hand."

"Yes," Idunn agreed, "but what has you so concerned. I doubt that single battle is causing you distress."

"It is and it isn't." Freyja leaned forward and placed her crossed forearms on the table in front of her. "If the Germans get the upper hand in this battle, their advance toward the port at Antwerp will be unstoppable. The British commander holding the port has a bit of an ego and is more concerned about what the American leaders, specifically General Patton, are doing instead of reinforcing his own location. I don't have to tell you what losing Antwerp would mean to the Allied Army."

Idunn's expression turned blank as she stared at her. "Let's say one of us doesn't understand what that means..."

Freyja stared back in mock horror while Freyr chuckled under his breath. Idunn's pale cheeks flared a bright pink. "Really, Idunn, how am I supposed to confide in you if you don't pay attention to our endeavor?"

The blond goddess rolled her blue eyes. "Seriously, Freyja! Why would I need to understand the battles when you are the one strategizing every step? I just sit here and wait for you to demand my presence and my potion." With a loud huff, she crossed her arms over her chest.

Instantly contrite, Freyja laid a hand over Idunn's arm. "I'm sorry. I sometimes forget others don't follow the wars as I do. You are always by my side, ready to provide me with anything I may need without hesitation or a single thought of your own well-being. Thank you."

"I do try to follow the war on Midgard. Natalya, Aleksandra, and Raisa are equally important to me, as are their men. I just can't stand to see so much hate."

Freyja smiled. Idunn had such a gentle heart. She sent a quick warning glance to her brother. If you ever hurt her, I will never forgive you.

His grin disappeared and he dropped his gaze. This is just as new to me as it is to her, sister. You know my track record with women, so any promise I make will be suspect. Only time will tell where this goes, but Freyja, I care very much for Idunn and will never intentionally do anything to cause her pain. That is a promise I can make.

Her gaze met his and through their shared feelings as twins, she felt his growing adoration for her best friend. So be it then. Turning her attention back to Idunn, she gave her friend's slender arm one last squeeze before pulling away and once more laying it over her other arm still resting on the table in front of her. "As the Germans' power grows, so does Ă“Ă°inn's. Raisa and Ailuin have finished tracing the Nazi's entire southern escape route. They actually traveled its length with a group of Germans who were escaping to Italy then on to South America."

"What will the Germans do in South America? Will you send Raisa and Ailuin there next?" Idunn asked.

She shook her head. "No. We cannot afford to have Óðinn’s power return to its previous level. I do not think we would be able to defeat him or Hitler if that should happen. Raisa and Ailuin will return here. Only she has the power to siphon Óðinn’s powers without him knowing. Her touch is so subtle; it's truly amazing to behold. Ailuin will be able to protect her, as will Heimdall. It seems he's taken quite a liking to my niece."

She leaned back in her chair, her eyebrows drawing together once more. "As we speak, Natalya and Mikhail are traveling with a young American woman stranded in Paris when France capitulated to Hitler. She is aiding the Resistance. Something tells me she will be important somehow—as are the two soldiers she's meeting. The scene I witnessed—the one that drove me here—is about young Lilyann. Well, that, and the fact that the Germans are rallying and shouldn't be. The original scene I watched in the Glass showed the Allies rapidly advancing toward Germany, and that is not happening."

Freyr's gaze moved between the two women. "Who is Lilyann?"

"Keep up, brother. She is Natalya's little sister and was with her at Stalingrad. She was also injured in the same crash that claimed Natalya's life. Unfortunately, Lilyann was no longer able to keep up with the magnitude of physical effort that's required to fly so many sorties every night and found a new home with the Resistance, although she still dreams of returning to the Night Witches. Mikhail's old friend and group leader, Bernard, took her under his wings and tells us she is quite adept at spying."

Freyr's brow rose. "You wouldn't be talking about the same Bernard who is, at this very minute, training with Lamruil and Alva, would you?"

She nodded. "The same. Lilyann has been following the ratlines leading out of Spain—from the Spanish monastery at Montserrat, to be precise and a major U-boat hub at Vigo. She was able to obtain photographs of the port of Cadiz, verifying it as the home port of the Nazi U-boats. She sent the information to Aleksandra and Jakob, who are heading to a rendezvous with a military contact with ties to Bletchley Park—a secret English stronghold where they do all sorts of spy things."

Idunn's eyes twinkled, her lips pulling into a smile. "All sorts of spy things? Really, Freyja." Her laughter once again tinkled like melodic wind chimes. "The vagueness is so unlike you. You usually go into minute detail about anything related to war and spying."

Freyja rolled her eyes and chose to ignore Idunn, although she was pleased to see a smile reappear on her friend's beautiful face. "As I was saying, I watched a scene in the God's Glass that was very unsettling. I saw her biplane flying through a winter storm, easing in and out of the heavy cloud bank with ease. I'm not sure what happened next, but suddenly the plane crashed."

Idunn sat up straight, her blue eyes darkening with emotion. "If she died, then why isn't she here? I've been expecting her arrival any day and have my potion ready. It's my best yet, but it won't last much longer. You know there's only a small window of opportunity when it comes to blending magic with just the right ingredients, especially when Mimic's water and my blood are involved."

Freyja's cheeks puffed out as she blew out a heavy breath. "I know. She isn't here because I can't find her."

Idunn's gaze darted to Freyr then back to hers, her pretty features morphing into a bewildered frown. "I'm not following you at all. Why can't you find her?"

Freyja clamped down on her own heightening concern and tried to force her pounding heart to slow without success. "It's not that I can't locate her, Idunn, it's as if her life force—and body are no longer on Midgard. I have searched through the Multiverse but to no avail. Lilyann has ceased to exist.

 

Chapter One

Eastern Belgium

December 17, 1944

Lilyann Volkov crept through the trees, trying to keep out of sight, which was becoming more and more difficult with every step as she tried to haul the cumbersome gas can she'd stolen from the Germans without hitting any of the dead branches in her path. It had taken most of the morning, but she was drawing closer to her destination, the quaint Belgian town of Malmedy. Desperation pushed her onward, and she ignored the painful blisters on her feet from walking so many miles in boots. She needed to reach her hidden biplane and refuel before the Germans arrived.

Kampfgruppe Peiper had been on her tail since she'd flown over the German Westfall. She now knew that area was the German's answer to the French's Maginot Line after the Great Patriotic War—what the rest of the world now called World War I, but it wasn't important to her. She just wanted to reach Austria and Bernard and didn't care if she flew over the Germans' safety zone.

Several times during the last couple of days, she managed to land her plane, ahead of the Wehrmacht, and scout around the nearby villages for information. Somehow, luck had been with her on that first landing near Büllingen, Belgium because she'd overheard German soldiers talking as they waited for their panzer to be refueled. One man bragged about the vacations his family took during his youth, describing the terrain of the small European country and what they would be up against. Another soldier, his voice so low she had to strain her ears, spoke about the Flemish port of Antwerp, and how the town proper was thought to have been originally settled by the Romans.

She leaned against one of the thicker trunks, catching her breath in the below-freezing temperatures. Grateful for the clear weather, she still wished for something hot to drink or even a bit of cover. Instead, she pushed away from the trunk, mindful of the tank so that it didn't clunk against the tree and give her away. Her breath mushroomed out in a cloud in front of her face as she trudged through the forest, making sure to avoid any dry branches or twigs. The powdering of snow on the ground was inconsequential, but she knew it wouldn't be long before thick drifts covered the countryside in a white blanket.

Piloting her open biplane would also become much more difficult. Even though there had been long nights of freezing temperatures and all but suicidal maneuvers, more than anything she missed flying with the Russian 588th Night Squadron. Unlike the other female squadrons, only hers was more commonly known as the Night Witches, a nickname the terrified German soldiers gave them because of the sound their planes made—like the sweeping of a broom. She would give just about anything to return to nightly sorties with her sister, Natalya, but that wish was impossible. Here, on Earth, Natalya was dead.

The plane crash at the battle at Stalingrad changed everything. Not only had her sister died, but her own injuries kept her grounded. No matter how well Lilyann felt or tried to convince her commander to let her fly, nothing worked. Right now, though, she had never felt so alive.

The stuttering grumbles and grinding of metal against metal came over the hill to her left. She paused, listening to the German tanks maneuver their way along the uneven packed dirt roads, rolling past her one after another, so many she lost count after the first couple dozen. As she peered through the trees, she did notice, however, the massive armored vehicles struggling on the narrow road. One side of her mouth rose in a sneer.

Surrounded by the enemy, the loud cracking of a stick in the still air of the forest made her pause. With her heart racing, she fought for breath as fear ratcheted up. A slight shiver shook her body. But when a soft grunt sounded somewhere off to her right, and another twig snapped behind her, no doubt remained. She was surrounded.

"This can't be good," she whispered, looking around. Her eyes never stopped as they studied every limb, branch, and bush, trying to pierce the shadows to discover the soldiers' locations.

The hair on her arms rose as the seconds ticked by. In the slowest increments possible, she knelt beside a tree. Firmly grasping the canister's handle, she lowered onto her hand and knees and carefully set the gas can away one arm's length in front of her then crawled toward it. She repeated this movement until she was able to hide the can under a clump of dense bushes then maneuvered her own body under what was left of the remaining foliage.

Curling up in a tight ball, she watched as several pairs of boots stepped toward her. She held her breath. The soldiers stopped in front of her hiding place, talking to each other in their guttural language. She was very grateful Natalya forced her to take German in school as she translated their words in her head.

"This is a fool's errand, Heinz. There is no one out here," one man muttered, his German so garbled and unpronounced, deciphering the actual words was difficult.

"Our orders are to look. Someone thought they saw a fräulein creeping through the woods. You know as well as I that the resistance is filled with both men and women. We can't have a female ruining our surprise attack for Antwerp, so keep moving," a second man demanded, Heinz supposedly, his voice cultured and older sounding. All the same, Lilyann realized she was going to be here awhile.

Several hours passed, and she could no longer feel her frozen limbs. Lying under the cover of the bushes kept most of the icy air away, but unfortunately for her, the hard ground was also frozen, the cold permeating her clothing and seeping into her bones. In the distance, she heard the metallic clanking of the tank tracks, but the men were now far enough away she could once again make her way toward her biplane.

Biting back the continual shivers, she forced herself to move. The stretching of her skin and muscles felt like knives slicing through her, but she managed to crawl out from underneath the bush. Reaching back in, she curled her gloved fingers around the handle of the gas can and pulled it out, the weight feeling twice as heavy as it had before her near capture.

Hurrying through the forest as fast as her frozen body could move, the occasional sound of pistols firing had become routine during her time in the Russian military. She arrived at the edge of the abandoned farmhouse where she'd stashed her plane, when she heard the two pistol shots quickly followed by a burst of machine gun fire, the never-ending volley ear-splitting in the frozen air.

Dropping the gas can next to the fence, she took off, heading back into the trees. Running in a zigzag line, she skidded to a stop, her eyes widening at the sight unfolding in the open field in front of her. She covered her mouth with her gloved hands to keep from crying out and watched as a small group of American soldiers return fire, each one dropping from the two jeeps. Several of them took off in different directions, hollering at the others to run. Her body trembled, this time from terror as the hunted men didn't make it very far. Bullets sliced through their bodies, and they fell to the ground, their arms overhead as if in surrender.

Moving back into the forest's darkness, she edged deeper into the shadows, trying to make herself invisible. A single man moved out from under cover of the cargo vehicles and into sight. From her vantage point, he seemed to be young, in his late twenties, maybe early thirties. From his pristine uniform, the golden oak leaves standing out against his black collar, she realized this must be the combat group's leader.

"Make sure they are all dead!" the man hollered in German, his words clipped and succinct. Behind him stood another man, his profile regal. He had shoulder-length, dark brown hair, which was unusual for an officer. His gaze scanned the area, but something about him seemed off to her. She studied him another minute but couldn't put her finger on what it was.

She forced her gaze away to follow the Germans as they fanned out, firing several bullets into the downed soldiers. A few cried out, each silenced by a single shot. Biting back a sob, she turned around, no longer able to watch. Her breath painfully hitched in her throat as she stared into the light blue gaze of a young soldier, the shoulder and upper chest of his coat blood soaked. Another second passed before she realized he was wearing an American uniform.

Placing her finger over her mouth, she prayed he wouldn't make a sound as she reached for him. Circling his waist with one arm, she helped him stay upright as they stumbled back through the forest toward the abandoned farmhouse and her plane.

She managed to kick down part of the fence so the soldier wouldn't have to crawl over or under it, not that he could have in his current condition. By the time they reached the barn, she was practically dragging him. Glancing over, his head drooped forward, and his chin bounced against his chest with each jerky step.

"I am so sorry—I know this hurts you, but it can't be helped. Like you, I'm not exactly at my peak strength." Leaning him against the barn wall, she pulled her hands away and prayed he'd stay upright. His body began to slide, but before she could grab him, he jerked and slid back to where she'd placed him. She hurried to the middle of the two oversized closed doors and pushed her fingers into the crack, curling them around the inside edge of a door and pulled it open just enough for her and the soldier to slip inside.

Taking longer than she would have liked, she finally managed to prop the injured man against the grain bin. She pulled the door closed behind her, somewhat thankful for the broken window that let the late afternoon light stream into the dim barn interior. Hurrying to her plane, she grabbed the first aid kit stashed beneath the pilot's seat and ran back to the soldier.

She set the metal box next to her and ripped off her gloves with her teeth, letting them drop onto her lap. "I hope you can understand me," she said in Russian. "My English is terrible." She hesitated, her fingers hovering over the buttons. "I'm just unbuttoning your jacket to look at your wound." With a quick mental prayer, she slid the top three buttons through the holes and moved the jacket out of the way. She then unbuttoned his shirt and eased the blood-soaked material away from the wound, cringing at the ragged hole.

Using one of the clean rags she always tried to keep in her kit, she gently patted the blood, trying to see the wound better. Reaching around, she felt along his upper back, the pads of her blood-covered fingers sliding across another hole. "You're in luck, the bullet went completely through, so I won't have to dig it out." Tearing open a sulfa packet with her teeth, she sprinkled it around and in the wound. The man gasped. His eyes flew open, and she found her wrist held captive, his strong grip a surprise. For some silly reason, she'd assumed he would be weak.

"I know it burns, but it needed to be cleaned and disinfected." She stared into his pale blue eyes. "I can't finish unless you let go of my arm."

His blond brows rose in surprise, and his gaze dropped to where his hand wrapped around her wrist. H frowned and released her arm. "I'm sorry."

She gave him a quick grin before turning to the first aid kit and pulling out several bandages. "My name is Lilyann. I'm going to need your help tying the gauze. Somehow, we've got to free this arm from your shirt and jacket enough, at least, so I can wrap a bandage around you."

With as little movement as possible, they both somehow managed to open his clothing enough for her to apply the two small gauze pads then wind the bandage around his shoulder and under his arm before tying it off. Once more, with his help, she maneuvered the shirt and jacket back into place and rebuttoned them.

Sitting back on her heels, she surveyed her handiwork. "There, that should hold you until we can get you back to your headquarters." She put everything back into her kit and secured the latch before turning her gaze back to his. "Do you know where that might be?"

He nodded and closed his eyes as he leaned his head back against the bin. "My name is Corporal Arun Sarleth. I'm with the 86th Engineer Battalion, Company B—or, what's left of it." He opened his eyes and his blue gaze speared hers. "Lieutenant Colonel Pergrin, the man patrolling the crossroads—what we call Five Points—said he'd received recon from one of his own patrols, who reported a German armored column on that same route. He warned Captain Mills and Lieutenant Lary who, thankfully, listened to him. My group was caught at the tail end of Battery B and didn't get away fast enough." He gave her a quizzical look. "You do not have a French accent."

She shook her head. "No, I'm Russian. I used to be with the 588th Night Squadron. After my plane crashed, I was told I couldn't fly anymore so now, I work for the Resistance."

His brows rose. "Commendable. Now, how are we going to get out of here?"

She smiled and pointed behind him. With a low grunt, he leaned to one side and turned his head. "Is that a biplane?" He eased himself back against the grain bin. "I can't believe you fly that. You're braver than I am."

"You fly?"

He nodded. "It's been so long, it feels like a lifetime ago, but I love feeling the wind in my face as I soar through the sky."

She chuckled. "We must be kindred spirits then because I feel the same way. Except when the temperatures are in the negative. Flying in a PO-2's open cockpit can get a little cold."

His full lips rose in a smile.

With a quick glance around the barn, she gathered a couple of heavy quilts she found in one of the stalls and unfolded them, praying no rodents had made their homes in the warm depths. When nothing fell out, she shook out any remaining dirt and laid one over the soldier, tucking the corners around his legs and behind his good shoulder. 

Easing the last corner behind his injured shoulder, she sat down beside him and covered herself with the other quilt. Her fingers caressed the frayed fabric as she squirmed, trying to get as comfortable as she could against the unyielding bin. Closing her eyes, the creaking of the barn's wood-planked walls lulled her to sleep.

She jerked upright, listening for whatever had awakened her then turned to the wounded American. He was gone, the blanket neatly folded beside her. Jumping to her feet, she glanced at the plane, sighing with relief when she finally made out its dark silhouette. At least he hadn't left her stranded. She checked the stalls, finding them all empty and stared at the closed doors, resting her hands on her hips.

"Where did you go?" she whispered to the empty barn. She walked to the large doors and inched one side open, staring out into the darkness. Squinting, she saw a man's dark shape disappear into the forest. "If you're well enough to walk, I guess you can manage to find your battalion on your own." Shaking her head, she slid the door closed behind her and leaned against the cold wood, swearing she'd seen tiny white lights, like a hundred fireflies turning on at once, fluttering around him.

She scooped up the two quilts and climbed into her plane. Turning slightly to one side, so she could rest her head against the back of the seat, she adjusted the quilts, laying one over the other and fell back to sleep.

* * *

Ten days later…

Lilyann swiped the back of her gloved hands over her fogged goggles, trying to see more than a few feet in front of her. Flying in this weather had been an act of desperation, but she had to get her hard-won information to Bernard before the upcoming battle began.

She made good use of her time in Belgium, spying and talking to both civilians and soldiers alike. Not only gathering considerable intel regarding the Nazi escape route through Spain, but she also uncovered reliable facts about two important U-boat hubs, one on the southern coast at Cadiz, and the other on the northwestern coast at Viga. The Resistance would be able to cause major damage with everything she accumulated. The best part, though, was regarding the upcoming battle.

Operation Nordwind. One of two counteroffensives Hitler planned, targeting northeastern France. The other German counteroffensive began in the Belgian Ardennes forest, an extremely difficult location for a battle. Due to miscommunication and the Americans’ overinflated belief they had the German army on the run, the American losses had been costly. Operation Nordwind, if left unchecked, could break the Allied's grip on France.

She swiped at her goggles once more and cursed the stinging sleet as it hit her exposed cheeks. A quick glance between cloud banks at the terrain below showed nothing but the glistening whiteness of the snow, which fell in droves. While she loved a white Christmas, right now, it was the last thing she wanted to see.

Trying to glean her location, she spared another quick glance at the ground. A dark shape slithered through the snow like a snake and forced her to pull up once again. If the German army below saw her, she would have a hard time trying to dodge anti-aircraft missiles in this sludge.

Two weeks late for her rendezvous with Bernard and the other resistance fighters in their group, she could only hope and pray he had waited for her or, at least, left her a note as to their new location. With the chaos of war mobilizing all around them, the Resistance was hard-pressed to continue their sabotaging, attacking, spying, and even rescuing those hunted by the Wehrmacht.

Her plane shuddered as a blast of cold air hit the aircraft. Tightening her grip on the drive stick handle, she breathed in the frozen air and dared to drop beneath the clouds one more time. The last thing she needed now was to veer off-course. She was so close to the Austrian border. A few hundred more miles, and she could land and sit all night in front of a warm fire. Of course, she wasn't going to mention to Bernard the risk she was taking to get there. He would be furious with her if he knew she was flying in this storm to reach SaarbrĂĽcken, a small town on the German border.

The area had changed hands from the Allied's to the German Axis several times, most of the town destroyed by bombing raids by both the English RAF and the American Army Air Force. Strategically, it was perfect as a Resistance hideout. Now, she just had to reach him without being blown out of the sky by anti-aircraft missiles or crashing from the storm.

Another gust of air shoved her craft lower, and she fought to bring it back in line, but a third blast hit the biplane with such force, it ripped off a piece of canvas near her feet. The strong gale pushed down on the plane's nose and shoved the drive stick forward. Lilyann fought to pull back on the stick, but the aircraft continued its dive toward the ground. Shoving her feet against the front supports of the floorboard, she pushed her legs down with all the strength she had left. Finally, the nose of the aircraft inched upward.

As if from a distance, a loud explosion sounded mere seconds before a brilliant flash of light filled the night sky. Her biplane shuddered. A second detonation sounded and her plane jerked sideways. Her last thought was a quick prayer that her death would be fast and painless.

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