- Author: Karen White
Read book online «The Last Night in London by Karen White (reading list .TXT) 📕». Author - Karen White
ALSO BY KAREN WHITE
The Color of Light
Learning to Breathe
Pieces of the Heart
The Memory of Water
The Lost Hours
On Folly Beach
The Beach Trees
After the Rain
The Time Between
A Long Time Gone
The Sound of Glass
Spinning the Moon
The Night the Lights Went Out
Dreams of Falling
COWRITTEN WITH BEATRIZ WILLIAMS AND LAUREN WILLIG
The Forgotten Room
The Glass Ocean
All the Ways We Said Goodbye
THE TRADD STREET SERIES
The House on Tradd Street
The Girl on Legare Street
The Strangers on Montagu Street
Return to Tradd Street
The Guests on South Battery
The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street
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Copyright © 2021 by Harley House Books, LLC
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: White, Karen (Karen S.), author.
Title: The last night in London / Karen White.
Description: First edition. | New York : Berkley, 2021.
Identifiers: LCCN 2020032228 (print) | LCCN 2020032229 (ebook) | ISBN 9780451492012 (hardcover) | ISBN 9780451492029 (ebook)
Classification: LCC PS3623.H5776 L37 2021 (print) | LCC PS3623.H5776 (ebook) | DDC 813/.6--dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2020032228
LC ebook record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2020032229
Cover design by Rita Frangie
Jacket photographs of women: (left) © RetroAtelier / Getty Images, (center and right) © Elisabeth Ansley / Trevillion Images, (with umbrella) © Drunaa / Trevillion Images
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
To Tim, for everything.
And to the 32,000 citizens of London who were killed during the Blitz. You are not forgotten.
Also by Karen White
About the Author
Feelings . . . of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
As have no slight or trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man’s life,
His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
Of kindness and of love.
The cool, clear night shuddered, then moaned as the fluctuating drone of hundreds of engines eclipsed the silence. A wave of planes like angry hornets slipped through the darkened sky over a city already wearing black in preparation for the inevitable mourning.
She tasted dust and burnt embers in the back of her throat as she hurried through a crowd of stragglers running toward a shelter. A man grabbed her arm, as if to correct her movement, but an explosion nearby made him release his hold and hurry after the crowd. She shifted the valise she cradled in her arms, the pressure on her chest making it difficult to breathe. Fatigue and pain battered her body, both eagerly welcomed, as they disguised the bruise of overwhelming grief. She staggered forward, the blood dripping unchecked from her leg and forehead, the acrid stench of explosives mixed with the sharp smell of death.
Gingerly, she moved through the darkened high street so familiar in the daylight but foreign to her now. The night sky blossomed with fire and scarlet light as the loud bark of the antiaircraft guns answered the banshee wails of the warning sirens. Pressing herself against a wall, as if she could hide from the noise and the terror, she closed her eyes. Moonlight Sonata. Someone—she couldn’t remember who, in an underground club, perhaps—had whispered that that was what he called the music of the nightly bombings. She’d thought then it had been a beautiful sentiment, that it was a wonderful way to make something good out of something so terrible. But she’d been younger then. More willing to accept that the world still held on to its beauty when everything lay charred and smoldering, with roofless structures like starving baby birds, mouths open to a useless sky.
Another incendiary bomb fell nearby. Another fireball lurched upward. Another building, another home, another life destroyed as the haphazard finger of fortune pointed with random carelessness. The sidewalk rumbled beneath her, causing her to stumble into the street, almost losing hold of her precious bundle. The shrill whistle of an air raid warden rang out, the sound padded into near oblivion by the thunder of the engines above them. The baby lay still as she ran, the partially closed top of the valise protecting him from the ashes that drifted from burning buildings.
She ducked into a doorway to catch her breath, oddly grateful to the fires for lighting her way. Fairly certain she was on Mac Farren Place, she flattened herself against a recessed door, imagining she could hear approaching footsteps coming for her. She needed to keep running until she reached her destination. She wasn’t sure what she’d do after that, but she’d think about it then.
Another wave of planes slithered overhead, the rumble of their engines echoing in her bones. She was tempted to collapse on the doorstep and remain there until dawn or death, whichever came first. But she couldn’t. She felt the heft of the valise in her arms again, a small movement within it reminding her of why she couldn’t give up.
She stood, planting her feet wide for balance and for the false sense of strength it gave her. As the world vibrated beneath her, she clung to that tenuous spark of will that wouldn’t allow her to stop.