“I hope we’ll meet again on the other side of fear, but should this damn war choose otherwise then all we can do is bear it …“
Lew and Russ, Grant and Alan have been caught up in the Great War, which governs their coming together and their moving apart; which has sucked them into the machine and seems reluctant to spit them out. When at last the Armistice comes, three out of the four survive; but how many will survive the peace?
85,000 words/322 pages
Publication 1 May 2016
Also available in paperback from the CreateSpace eStore and your regional Amazon marketplace.
“A true blend of war, love, drama showing that sometimes no amount of planning can replace just living.”
Review by Heather at Padme’s Library 11 November 2016 (scroll down)
” … a superbly written book and a heart wrenching M/M romance … “
Release Day review by Mark and Sally at Sinfully Gay Romance Book Reviews 1 May 2016
London, October 1916
The noise; the crush; the explosions of steam; the constant shrill of whistles. It might have been the anteroom to Hell.
It was, in fact, Victoria Station.
David Lewry got down from the train, took a firm grip on his bag, and walked along the platform, looking straight ahead.
He had stayed awake through France, and during the appalling Channel crossing. Once aboard an English train he had fallen asleep in the corner of his compartment. Now, he was not altogether sure that he was conscious; he could barely feel the ground beneath his feet, and walking seemed easy, dreamlike.
In one corner of the station men were queuing for tea and a place in the refreshment area. He would have given anything to have joined them, but he was an officer, and officers were expected to pay their own way. Moreover, he was expected at – at – he tried to drag the name of the hotel out of his memory. If only he still had that letter.
It was raining in London, of course; but he was used to the rain. He paused for a moment under the station canopy. Maybe the name of the hotel would come back to him if he sat down and thought about it. The nearest place … he turned round, walked back into the station and shouldered his way through the passage that led to the Grosvenor Hotel.
“Would you have a quiet corner where I could sit and have some tea?”
They showed him to a small room and brought tea and biscuits. The biscuits he devoured ravenously, but the tea was weak. He swirled it round a little, and set the pot down. He would wait for it to brew, and try to remember the name of that hotel.
He woke with a leap of every muscle at the touch of a hand on his shoulder.
“God, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
The light was behind the newcomer, and all Lewry could see of him was the usual khaki, a face, a blur of chestnut hair. He rubbed his eyes.
“What are you doing here, for Heaven’s sake? I left a note for you to come up to the room.” David Russell-Hansford-Barnes, clean and shaven and good-looking as hell, with a frown on his face. “I was expecting you two hours ago. I ate dinner on my own.”
Lewry blinked at him. “Russ,” he said. “I’m sorry. I didn’t even remember that this was the hotel.”
“Didn’t you get that letter either?”
“I did, but I don’t have it any more.” Lewry touched the teapot: it was stone-cold. In his cup was one mouthful of cold, weak, dust-coloured brew. He drank it.
“My first letter,” Barnes said, low and teasing, “and you throw it away?”
“The only letter I had from you in six months.” Lewry rubbed his eyes with the hand that was not holding cup and saucer. “I was reading it when a shell got our parados. After that – it wasn’t legible.” He did not say why, but he could not stop a shudder from running through him, strong enough to rattle the china.
Barnes took the fragile things from his hands. “We’ve found each other now, anyway.”
“Yes.” It should not have been like this; they should have met each other off their respective trains, and smiled and waved and been able to talk cheerily. And then – “You did say a bed?” Lewry asked.
“Yes, Lew. Well – two beds, to be honest. I … didn’t have the nerve.”
Barnes looked a little startled at his vehemence. “What are you going to do about dinner?”
“I couldn’t eat a thing. I was sick all the way across. I want to sleep.” Lewry stood up. “I saw you were gazetted Major, by the way. Youngest major in your regiment, isn’t it?”
“Oh, I don’t know who told you that, it’s rubbish. Besides, what about you? Captain. You’ll catch up with me yet.” Barnes clapped him on the shoulder.
The smile soured. “Rather not,” Lewry said. “Promoted because of all the dead, not because of competence. They should have left me in the Surreys.”
“Another four shillings a day, though.”
“There is that. But – oh, never mind.” He reached for his bags as Barnes picked them up. “I can manage those.”
“I’m sure, but let me help, eh? The room’s not far.”
“I can carry them.”
Barnes stopped short; looked at him; and handed the bags over. “If you must.”
The room was on the first floor, and an oil lamp was already burning. The covers had been turned down on the beds. There was a covered jug of water and a glass on each stand, and a ewer of hot water on the cabinet. Lewry came in from the WC at the end of the corridor to find Barnes stripped to the waist and washing.
“Left some clean water for you,” the major said, muffled through a towel.
“Use it. I’m too tired.” Lewry’s bootlaces fought every attempt to undo them, but he wrenched his boots off at last and slung his khaki on the nearest chair. Still in his underwear, he sat on the bed. “Night, Russ.”
“Lew … “
They looked at each other.
“Well?” Lew said.
“I’ve been here for two days.” Russ ran his fingers through his hair. “Waiting for you. For this.”
Lew’s muscles stilled into tautness. He said, “You didn’t think I might not … “
“For Christ’s sake. I thought it was you started all this off by wanting me. That time.”
“That was then.”
“Lew – “
“Russ,” Lewry cut in. “I am tired. I don’t want to. Not now this minute. And besides – “
Barnes looked at him. Hurt? There was no way of telling. “Besides, what?” he said, his voice abrupt and clipped.
“Besides,” Lew said again, “I’m buggered if I’ll let a major pull rank on me.”
“So what am I supposed to do? Go out and shoot one so that you can step up again?” Russ snapped.
“No, of course not.” Lew stared at him. “Oh, fuck, Russ. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it to be like this.”
Russ stared back; then, at last, relaxed and laughed. “Fuck, likewise,” he said. “I’m sorry, Lew. We shouldn’t be fighting. Of course you’re tired. Of course I’m a pushy bastard. You have your sleep out. I’m very glad to see you.”