When seventeen-year-old seamstress, Josephine Nimetz, agrees to take care of a WWI amputee in a remote Alaskan lodge to escape the influenza of 1918, there’s enough friction to melt the Mendenhall Glacier. Her position is only until June, and it pays well enough to overlook the hardship of managing a rustic home and a shell-shocked veteran, Geoff Chambers.
Geoff makes it clear that he isn’t too fond of the “runt” sent to take care of his needs, nor of her painful mistakes. Dealing with a depressed and addicted amputee, pushes Josephine to the brink of leaving, if not for the money her salary brings.
But Josephine is a perfectionist, determined to get Geoff back on his feet—figuratively. Though, sending a rich, handsome veteran back into society may cost Josephine the man she has grown to love.
A quick peek into the hallway showed no sign of a wayward Mrs. Prescott. Josephine shuffled carefully toward the stranger’s door and positioned herself near the entrance to his dimly lit room.
“You came,” he said, his voice strangled and rough.
“I came to ease my conscience and to get some sleep.” She offered him the water glass. He took it from her but didn’t drink.
“I need two white pills.” He pointed to a metal box on top of a tall armoire. “My caretaker’s sick.”
“I can’t,” she said. “I’ll get in trouble.’’
“It’s just an aspirin, Runt. Read the label.”
How dare he insult her? Josephine crossed her arms, crushing all the mail-order bows on her gown, and drew to her full height—five feet nothing.
“I am not a runt.”
“Short hair, short body, short legs, you’re a runt. Now, get me that pill.” He pushed his body higher against the headboard. “Do it,” he demanded. “I hurt.” His tone softened.
An upholstered chair sat next to the armoire. Couldn’t he—? Her hand tingled with memory. I didn’t touch a long leg. She hesitated as her pulse hammered against her veins.
Do it. Don’t. Do it. Don’t. Do it. Don’t.
She met his gaunt-eyed gaze and carefully climbed onto the chair. The last thing she needed was to fall and hit her head again. She reached for the metal box and opened it. Rows of bottles and a stack of syringes filled the little chest. She picked up a copper tinted bottle from the left-hand side.
“It’s on the right,” he coached. “Don’t mess with that bottle. The doctor counts those narcotics. If you give me any more of that tonight, you may not get out of here alive.”
She ignored his threat. “I may be unsteady, but I do believe I could make it out the door before you could make it out of bed.”
“Don’t worry. I’m cranky when I don’t get much sleep.”
When wasn’t he cranky? She picked up the bottle he indicated and recognized the brand. Her mother used these for pain. She shook out two white pills and placed the bottle back in the box before tidying up the row and closing the metal latch.
She handed him the pills. He drained the water glass. When he had finished drinking, she reached out to take the glass from him.
“What do you want?”
He did not move. His hand clutched the glass, resting it on top of the blanket near his thigh.
“I need the glass.” Heat, blood, and embarrassment rushed to her cheeks. She braced for a struggle to get the crystal back. “I don’t want it missing from my room. The other one either. I don’t want Mrs. Chambers to think I’m a thief.” Her bottom lip quivered.
“Stop that. He moved the glass away from his thigh. “Take it. I don’t know where the other one went. Search if you like.”
She inched her hand closer toward the glass. “You won’t curse again?”
He shook his head.
Her gaze never wavered from his unshaven face until her fingers were wrapped around the prize. She grabbed the glass and wedged it under her armpit for safety. She skimmed the room for the other cup, but she didn’t see it.
The man flinched like he had taken another drink bath.
She glanced to where his legs should have formed two long lines underneath the sheets. The covers lay flat against the bed.
“It’s not polite to stare.” His lifeless eyes were as empty as the crystal glass.
“I didn’t mean to. I’ve just never seen such an injury.” Or felt it.
Barbara M. Britton lives in Southeast Wisconsin and loves the snow—when it accumulates under three inches. She is published in Biblical fiction and enjoys bringing little-known Bible characters to light in her stories. Look for Barb to venture into Christian Historical fiction in 2020 with “Until June.” Barb is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Romance Writers of America, and Wisconsin Romance Writers of America. Barb has a nutrition degree from Baylor University but loves to dip healthy strawberries in chocolate. Find out more about Barb’s books at http://www.barbarambritton.com/books.html
The print edition will release around July 1st.