Title: UNTIL HE RETURNS
Author: Judythe Morgan
Genre: Military Romance Novella
Until He Returns
Shirley Carlson’s husband was Alex Cabot’s best friend and co-pilot when their helicopter went down in Vietnam. He’s been MIA for decades. She filled her life with family, friends, her business, and David Sands’ companionship. Now David wants more. She wants her husband home and buried before she moves forward with another relationship.
David has loved Shirley since Lily Cabot introduced them. He’s patiently waited for her to come to terms with her husband’s death. All he wants is Shirley at his side, as his wife. He proposes before he deploys, wanting her answer when he returns.
Can Shirley abandon her promise to bring her husband home or will she let her new love walk away?
David Sands tapped his glass as if we were at a banquet. Once he had everyone’s attention, he stood. “I have an announcement.” His eyes swept the group and settled on me. “After twenty-eight years, I’m retiring.”
Applause and shouts of joy erupted from the five of us seated at the Cabot Grove dining table. David was still a relatively young man, five years my junior. What would retirement mean for him?
Alex Cabot lifted his glass. “Hear, hear! It’s about time.”
David winked at me. “Guess those excuses about not dating an Army officer aren’t going to work anymore. I’ll no longer be active duty.”
I gave a weak smile.
Alex’s wife Lily grinned. “That’s right, Shirley. I’m sure Beth and Jay would be happy to babysit Chuck so we can double date.”
I swallowed a frustrated sigh. Lily wouldn’t give up pushing me into a relationship with David.
My son Jay and his wife nodded enthusiastic agreement. “Absolutely.”
David took my hand. “How about a movie next week?”
I slipped my hand from his, tucked my head, and pushed the food around on my plate. “We’ll see. I have a major estate sale to prepare for. It’ll depend on how much I get done.”
He seemed to accept my vague answer and the conversation shifted to other topics.
After dessert, David walked me to Jay’s car while Beth and Jay lingered with their goodbyes. Since we live together on the farm, we’d driven the short distance to the Cabot’s together.
David opened the back door. I slid inside. He leaned in, turning my face until our eyes met. “We’ve been friends long enough. I’m ready to move forward.”
He placed his fingers over my lips. His expression filled with yearning. “Give me a chance to show you we belong together.”
Jay and Beth were coming. I sighed, unable to fight him anymore tonight. “Okay.”
“I’ll be calling,” he said with a wink and practically skipped to his car.
Unsettled by David’s promise to call for a date, I brewed a cup of chamomile tea then curled into the wingchair by my fireplace. Jay and Beth had gone straight to bed. I smiled, recalling the first few months of my marriage.
Light from the Tiffany lamp on the nearby marble-top table cast jewel tones across my antique teacup. Jean, a fellow POW/MIA widow, had given me the delicate Limoges cup after our husbands’ names had appeared, simultaneously, on the growing list of missing soldiers during the Vietnam War.
We were young, devastated women wandering unknown waters as wives of MIAs. Meetings of the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia brought us together. Our loss made us immediate friends.
Eventually, Jean moved back to Texas to be near her family while she waited for news. I stayed here in Virginia on the farm. Jay’s father was missing, but I was determined that his son should grow up where his father’s people had lived for generations.
As vivid as they were in 1966, never-forgotten memories carried me back to the day two Army officers came to tell me John’s helicopter had been shot down over Vietnam. He and the pilot, Alex Cabot, were both missing. Growing up together, John and Alex had been so excited for the opportunity to serve together. None of us gave a thought to the possibility that they wouldn’t return together.
And then they were both gone. Together.
Operation Homecoming in 1973 brought Alex back. He told me John died in the crash. For so long, I refused to accept what he said. I believed if Alex had returned my John would too.
It’s been over a decade and I’m still waiting, but I refuse to give up hope. Alex promised he’d bring John’s body home so we could bury him in the family cemetery in Knoxville.
Alex keeps his promises.
Until that happens, my world is complete. My son is happily married. My estate sale business is thriving. The farm is doing well. Someday, I’ll deed it to Jay and Beth, then move to my condominium in Arlington. For now, I have everything I need.
I believe that most of the time until I look at how happy Lily and Alex are since they got back together, and I see the happiness Jean found with her new husband. Then the doubts creep in.
I do care deeply for David. Over the years, we’ve spent so much time together. He’s been my knight in shining armor — rushing in to save the day whenever Jay is deployed too far away, and Alex is unavailable. My Prince Charming — serving as my escort for various functions. Whenever he needs a date, I accompany him to his events.
But it isn’t dating. It is best friends helping each other out. Why can’t that be enough?
I swallowed my cold tea in one gulp, returned to the kitchen, and hand-washed the special cup before replacing it in the cupboard.
I tossed and turned until fatigue took over about 3 a.m. and I fell into a restless sleep. Voices from the kitchen woke me way too early the next morning.
A third voice joined Jay’s and Beth’s. David’s?
I quickly dressed and headed to the kitchen, going straight for the coffee pot and poured myself a cup. The first of many I’d need to get through the long day ahead.
When I turned around, David leaned against the counter with a doughnut in his hand, staring at me. “What are you doing here?”
Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):
LINK for paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Until-He-Returns-PROMISES-3/dp/0990883515/
What makes your featured book a must-read?
UNTIL HE RETURNS is a must-read for a military romance reader because it’s a quick read about second chance love. Shirley is one of so many military wives whose husbands go Missing in Action (MIA) and struggle with moving on. Her story will touch your heart and renew your faith in love and happy endings.
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Judythe Morgan traveled a lot as an Army brat then Army wife. She’s been a teacher, an antiques dealer, former mayor's wife, and sometimes-church pianist. Mommy to an Old English sheepdog named Finnegan MacCool and a Maltese named Buster, there’s always a wild adventure happening.