China Blue – the third book in The Dudley Sisters Saga. Claire Dudley’s Secret Wartime Love.

CHINA BLUE – Book 3 in The Dudley Sisters’ Saga

At the beginning of World War Two, Claire Dudley joins the WAAF. She excels in languages and is recruited by the Special Operations Executive to work in German occupied France with Captain Alain Mitchell, of the RCAF, and the French Resistance. Against SOE rules Claire falls in love. The affair has to be kept secret. Even after her lover is taken by the Gestapo, Claire cannot tell anyone they are more than comrades. As the war reaches its climax, Claire fears she will never again see the man she loves.

An excerpt from China Blue. Chapter Thirteen.

Café La Ronde was packed with Germans. Claire looked around. Alain wasn’t there. The clock above the counter said five to twelve. She asked for a cup of coffee and found a table for two with a good view of the door. She would see Alain when he came in.

      The waiter arrived and placed a cup of coffee and a small dish in front of her. Claire dropped a couple of coins into the dish and lifted the cup without taking her eyes off the door. She looked at the clock again. Ten minutes past twelve, Alain was late.

     Suddenly several customers jumped up, left their seats, and ran to the window. Claire took her basket and joined them. Half a dozen German soldiers had surrounded a man demanding to know who he was. ‘Damn bullies,’ she said under her breath. A staff car screeched to a halt in front of the café, blocking the view.

      Several men cursed and a couple went outside to see more clearly what was going on. Claire followed. A soldier ran to the car and opened the back door. A tall hard-faced captain with skeletal features and small piercing eyes, wearing the dark field green uniform of the Waffen SS – the death mask on his peaked hat highly polished – stepped from it and strode across to the pack of grey uniforms. A corporal broke the circle to let the SS officer in, and Claire gasped. The recipient of the German soldier’s victimization was Alain.

      ‘Halt!’ the SS officer shouted.

      The soldiers did as ordered and moved away. With a sardonic lopsided smirk, the SS officer ordered Alain to produce his identity papers. Alain put his hand inside his jacket and the officer drew his gun. Alain put the offending hand in the air and held his jacket open with the other. The officer nodded sharply to one of the soldiers, who snatched Alain’s papers roughly. The soldier handed the folded document to his superior.

      ‘I’m afraid,’ Alain said, ‘there has been a mistake. I’m–’

      ‘Silence!’ the captain shouted. Alain stopped speaking immediately and bowed his head. The SS officer circled him, hitting the palm of his black leather-gloved hand with his truncheon. ‘English pig!’

      ‘No.’ Alain straightened. ‘I’m–’

      ‘I said silence!’ Snarling, the officer raised the truncheon and brought it down on Alain’s left shoulder. The force of the blow sent Alain sprawling to his knees. ‘Get up!’ the German shouted. Alain stumbled to his feet and the officer brought the truncheon down again, this time sideways across his face. Alain’s cheek split open on impact and Claire saw him wince as he fell to the ground. Blood gushed from the wound, but the brave Canadian said nothing.

       The officer flicked his hand at two soldiers. ‘Take him to headquarters.’

      Both clicked their heels. ‘Hauptsturmführer!’ they said as one, and hauled Alain to his feet.

      The commotion had brought people out of their houses and shops. Inquisitive at first, they stayed to watch the sport. Elbowing her way to the front of the crowd, Claire caught Alain’s eye. The lines on his forehead deepened when he saw her and he shook his head. Tears filled her eyes as she pushed her way towards him.

      ‘No!’ he shouted. Struggling, he continued, ‘Leave me! Go!’

      Claire stopped. Alain was shouting to her, telling her to leave. But because he was being dragged away by German soldiers they assumed he was shouting at them and punched him in the stomach. He doubled over. Claire screamed. She had caused her brave lover to be hurt again.

. She could see the SS officer’s black Mercedes. She pushed through the oncoming tide of people and there he was, getting into his car. She broke away from the crow and raised her arm. But before she had time to attract his attention, someone grabbed her from behind and pulled her back into the throng. She struggled to free herself, twisting and kicking. ‘Now, now, my little tiger of a wife!’ she heard a familiar voice say. ‘Why so passionate about a stranger? Save your passion for me in our bed.’

      Several men nearby began to laugh. Claire glared at them. ‘Ouch! Very well, husband,’ she shouted. ‘Not so tight, you’re hurting me.’

      Frédéric Belland relaxed his grip. ‘Shush, Claire. It is too late. You can do nothing to help Alain now.’ Tears streaming down her face, Claire let Frédéric lead her away. At the end of the road she looked back. Alain and the Germans were gone. The crowd had dispersed. The square was empty.