NEW YORK CITY
DECEMBER 11, 1941
For better or for worse, Nick Fletcher knew his life
would change tonight. He touched the small box in his
coat pocket for the hundredth time as the credits toMrs. Miniver rolled. He was sure he hadn't absorbed
ten minutes of the film; he'd been too busy watching
Evie. The way she cried at the latest newsreel of the
bombing of Pearl Harbor. The way she laughed, and
then cried some more, with the Miniver family on the
big screen as they faced life after the Blitz in Britain.
Her fingers had dug into the palm of his hand during
an especially sad scene. Later, a smile replaced the
tears when the stationmaster, Mr. Ballard, showed Mrs.
Miniver a rose he had cultivated and asked her permission
to name it after her.
I don't have a rose, but perhaps you'll call yourself
by my name. Nick lifted her hand to his lips.
The houselights came up, and Evie turned to Nick,
dabbing her eyes. "That was such a good movie." She
let out a low breath. "Look at me; I'm a mess."
Nick stroked her cheek and gazed into her dark
brown eyes. "I'm looking. I'm looking, Evie Kreig, and
I can't get enough, lady."
Her cheeks reddened slightly, and she rose from the
velvet chair. Her straight, silky brown hair cascaded
over her shoulders, and she brushed it aside as she
slipped on her blue jacket and buttoned it at the waist.
"So, you ready to get something to eat? I know the
perfect place." This is it. The moment I've waited for.
Evie shrugged. "I don't know, Nick. It's awfully
late, and I don't want Papa to worry. He was acting sort
of funny today." She grabbed her clutch and leaned
close. "And we still have tomorrow, and the next day .
Nick attempted to hold his smile. He offered his
arm, then led Evie up the aisle. "The thing is, I found a
wonderful restaurant and made reservations. They
promised to stay open just for us." He looked down at
her. "Seeing that it's late, we'd better hurry. What can I
say to convince you?"
Evie squeezed his arm tighter. "Okay. You know I
can't say no to you."
Nick kissed the top of her head. That's what I'm
* * *
Nick's hand engulfed Evie's, and it took her two
quick steps to keep up with his one as he pulled her
through the city. The signs in the square buzzed past her
peripheral vision like a neon dream. Above, a fluorescent
billboard broke through the fog: Lena Horne. Live
Where is he taking me? She wished she'd left a note
for her parents. Papa liked Nick, but he always
scowled, his dark eyebrows meeting in the middle,
when she arrived home after ten.
"Nick, hold on. You're leaving me in the dust," she
Nick slowed slightly, glancing back with a grin. "I
love your Viennese accent when you're all worked up.
But we have to hurry now before they close."
He rounded the corner, and Evie followed, full skirt
swishing around her legs and high heels clicking across
the littered sidewalk. While most of the businesses on
42nd Street were closed, a single warm glow beckoned
from a small café.
At the door Nick released her hand, adjusted his
Davenport jacket, and flashed his best smile. "Well,
what do ya' think, my little chickadee?"
Evie laughed. "Oh, please, Nick. You are more Jimmy
Stewart than W. C. Fields any day." She glanced at
the sign. "Danube! Like my river! How did you find
"A friend told me about it. It's new. An Austrian
chef, just immigrated." He took a step back, jutting out
his elbow. Evie entwined her arm in his.
The door opened with a jingle of bells against glass.
Small tables were lit only by candlelight. A waiter
dressed in Austrian lederhosen and an embroidered
shirt hurried toward them.
"I feel like I'm back in Vienna," Evie said.
"I checked the menu a few days back." Nick helped
her out of her coat. "Wienerschnitzel and beef goulash.
Even braised pike in hazelnut sauce."
"I would give anything for a good goulash. Americans
never get it quite right." Evie's eyes feasted on the
rich velvet draperies and Klimt reproductions.
"Mr. Fletcher, sir?" The waiter smiled. "This way,
He led them to a candlelit table in a corner of the
room. Nick pulled out the chair for Evie.
"Thank you." She watched him as he took a seat
across from her. There was definitely something on his
mind. He kept looking at her as if he were about to
The waiter handed them menus.
"Oh, look, Nick, they have Sacher torte. My favorite!"
Nick didn't respond, and he hardly glanced at his
menu. Instead, he ran his fingers through his hair, then
took a sip of water.
"Nick, are you with me?"
His eyes locked with hers. "Of course, yes."
She reached for his hand. "So, when are you going
to tell me your secret?"
He leaned close, wrapping her fingers completely inside
his. He tried to hide his smile, but one corner of his
mouth refused to submit. "I don't know what you're
"Oh yes, you do, Nick Fletcher. We've been together
almost every day for a year. I know when something's
"Okay, you got me."
He leaned close and lifted her hand to his cheek. She
felt the slightest hint of stubble on his chin.
"I think you're the most beautiful, caring, talented ."
Evie laughed and pulled her hand away. "There's more
to it than that, mister." She crossed her arms and raised an
eyebrow. "Fine. We will just sit here until you tell."
A childlike grin formed on Nick's lips.
She laughed. "Okay, if you're not going to tell me,
will you at least order so we can eat?"
Nick's finger's tapped against the menu as he pretended
to read it. "What are you having?"
"Goulash and Sacher torte for dessert. I told you
that." Evie placed her menu on the table and rested her
chin on her hands. "Okay, really. What's going on? Do
you have news? Did Dr. Erikson put you on the surgery
Nick put down the menu. "No, not that. I still
haven't heard. The residency schedule will be up next
week." He sighed. "But if you won't let it go, I guess
now is as good a time as any." His face broke into a
huge grin. The candlelight danced against his dark hair
and eyes. He rose and reached into his jacket pocket.
Evie placed one hand over her heart, then without
warning the bell on the front door jingled and a cold
wind struck her.
Nick turned, and the color drained from his face. A
man in a dark coat and hat hurried in. He lifted his
head, eyes full of sorrow. Evie jumped to her feet, the
chair toppling to the floor behind her.
The waiter rushed forward. "I'm sorry, sir. The
restaurant is closed."
Nick waved him away. "It's okay. He's with us."
"Papa?" Evie rushed over. "How did you find us?
Her father approached Nick. "I am sorry, Nicholas.
If there were any other way-"
Evie grasped his hands. "Tell me, please."
"We must go home."
"Has something happened to Mother?"
"No. Home to Vienna. All of us. Our passports
have been revoked, my job as ambassador nullified.
Our ship leaves in the morning."
Nick's hands tightened on Evie's shoulders. She felt
his breath against her ear.
"No," he whispered.
Evie grasped Nick's hand on her shoulder. "This
Her father turned to Nick. "I'm sorry, son. I can't let
your plans happen now."
"I don't understand."
The older man shook his head. "They're closing the
embassy. All Austrians must return to Europe."
"Congress declared war on Germany, not us!" Evie
"Austria is Germany's ally." Her father shrugged
wearily. "They see us as the enemy too."
"We've been kicked out? A man in your position? It
isn't as though Austria had a choice. The Germans annexed
"I'm sorry." Her father placed his hat upon his head
and turned toward Nick. "I told you this might happen,
son. I had hoped you would have more time-" He
walked to the door. "A cab is waiting. Really, I am very
sorry, but you only have a few minutes."
The bell jingled again as the door closed behind him.
Evie turned to Nick. "I can't do it. I can't leave you.
And your surprise-"
Nick smiled ruefully. He opened his suit jacket and
tenderly removed a small velvet box, then placed it on
the white linen tablecloth and opened it. An antique
diamond ring sparkled in the candlelight. "Evie, this
was meant for you."
* * *
Evie pushed aside the porthole curtain and took in
the Manhattan skyline. The ship's engines purred from
somewhere below, vibrating the floor. The sound made
Evie think of the rumble of German tanks spreading
over Europe. War. This war would soon be more than
images in print or newsreels. It would be as real to her
as New York had been for the past five years.
She rubbed her puffy eyes, then quickly pulled the
pins from her chignon, dropped them into the nightstand
drawer, and shook out her hair. She wished she
could unbind her life as easily. From the first word ofAnschluss, Evie had a hard time believing Austria was a
sovereign land no longer. As a diplomat's daughter, she
had spent nearly as much time in New York City as she
had in Vienna. She'd sampled American freedoms and
had flourished in lived-out democracy. The culture appealed
to her taste. Only Nick understood these things,
loved these things, about her.
A quick knock sounded at the door, and Evie jumped.
It must be Mother reminding her to air out a dress for
dinner in the captain's quarters, or Papa checking to
make sure she'd acquired suitable accommodations.
She rebuttoned her jacket and opened the door.
A tall, broad-shouldered man leaned against the
doorjamb, wearing the common gray cap and wool vest
of a cabbie. The cap's bill was pulled over the man's
face, and his gaze was turned downward to a small
satchel in his hand.
Evie squared her shoulders. "I'm sorry, but you
must have the wrong room."
"Wait a minute, ma'am. Dis cabin here is where I
was told ta go."
"Sir, you have the wrong room," she repeated, moving
to close the door.
The man jabbed his foot in the doorway. "No,
ma'am, I don't believes I do." The scruffy cab driver
lifted his head. Dark brown eyes glanced down at her.
Evie gasped-then socked him in the stomach with
a soft fist. "Nick Fletcher!" She grabbed his free hand,
pulling him into the room. "What on earth are you doing?
How did you get on board? And where did you get
A familiar grin lit up Nick's handsome features, displaying
a hint of a dimple on his left cheek. He dropped
both the satchel and his cap to the floor, then swooped
Evie into his arms.
"First off, I told the porter a pretty little lady left a
satchel in my cab. And second, would ya hate me if I
told you I traded my fancy threads for these?"
Evie caught a whiff of roasted wieners at the same
instant that she noticed a smudge of ketchup on the
white shirt collar. "You're not talking about the hot dog
vendor on the docks, are you? I recognize these clothes.
What am I going to do with you, Nicholas? You are going
to get both of us in awful trouble. The boat is set to
disembark in just a few moments."
"Disembark, eh?" Nick's cultured speech slid into a
New York cadence. "Dis here could be a problem. I
wish I could go wit' ya. Bein' as how I'd follow ya to da
ends of de earth." His face grew somber as he caressed
the scar on her jawline.
Evie's skin sparked under his touch.
"Seriously now." His voice was low. "Do you know
how hard it was sitting in church, realizing this ship
was still anchored? I know our official parting was last
night, but I remembered a few more gifts." He opened
the clasp of his satchel and plunked down on the red
"You're not talking about the ring, are you? Honestly,
as much as I love it, I don't feel it's safe taking
your grandmother's keepsake with me. And you've already
given me so much." Her hand reached to her collar
and the French cameo pendant hanging around her
"No. Nothing like that. Just some little things to remember
me by." He reached into the satchel. "First, a
little lady for the lady." Nick's fingers opened to reveal
a miniature model of the Statue of Liberty. He placed it
on her palm. "This is to help you remember that day
when we gazed up at her and you gave that wonderful
diatribe on just how lucky I was to be born under the
"Next ." Nick placed a foot-long hot dog-piled
with kraut and relish-in her other hand.
Evie took a big whiff.
"This is to remember our many fine dinners together.
"And finally." He reached into the bag and pulled
out a small book.
Evie recognized the burgundy cover worn from the
touch of a hundred hands. "Nick, you didn't!"
"But I did."
"You stole a hymnal from church?"
He laughed. "No. I asked Pastor Simons if I could
buy one. When I told him who it was for, he gave it to
Evie placed the hot dog and tiny statue on the small
table, and then she grasped the book. The pages were
soft from use, and she could barely make out the gold
words on the cover. "Songs of Praise," she whispered.
Nick placed his hands over hers. "This is to remind
you of all the services when we sang side by side."
Evie pressed the hymnal to her chest and reached
her other arm around his neck. "Thank you. I will remember
and will pray that we'll be together soon."
Nick's eyes studied hers. "Did you talk to your father?
Does he know of a way we can communicate?"
Evie sighed. "He says that receiving and sending letters
from the States will draw too much attention. He
promised to think of a way, though. Maybe we should
just write anyway, then when we're able, mail them all
Nick pulled Evie close and whispered in her ear, but
his words were lost amid the loud shrill of the ship's
She took a step back and looked into his dark eyes.
"What did you say?"
"I said, sounds like a good idea. I'll be thinking
about you, loving you, no matter how far apart we
are." He replaced his cap and pulled it low over his
brow. "Now, I better get outta here before I end up on
the other side of the world-although that doesn't
sound too bad, if I could be with you. I love you, Evie."
He kissed her again, whispered "Be safe" in her ear,
and disappeared out the door.
"I wish I could promise such a thing," Evie murmured
as she moved to the doorway and watched him
jog down the narrow hall. Her chest tightened, and she
imprinted the blurry image of Nick into her mind .
one last time.