Penny

Ellie2-FINAL-600

Penny

Women And War Book 2

Penny is hell bent on revenge on the man who caused her to flee France as a teenager with little more than the clothes on her back. She lost everything, her friends, her home and her family. She is desperate to find love and to go back home. The Nazis have occupied her country. To return now means she will risk arrest, imprisonment, hideous torture and perhaps even death. Her British friends and adoptive family don’t understand her need to go back.

It’s the second year of the war. Britain stands alone. Civilians face death and destruction on a daily basis through the Blitz. Penny throws herself into her translation job in order to forget about the man that broke her heart. Yearning to do more, she convinces her bosses to drop her behind enemy lines in Northern France as a spy. Working with the resistance in the darkness of occupied France her bravery, skills and resourcefulness are tested to the limit.

Now a trained killer, she comes face to face with the man she holds responsible for the loss of everything she held dear. Will she let revenge destroy any chance of happiness the future may hold? Or will she give in to the love she has waited a lifetime to find?

Digital Price – $2.99

AmazonButtonAmazonInternationalButton

Reviews

Excellent read. The authors delivery of the contents of this book makes you feel that you are there in France during World War 2. The characters and places seem very real. Ellie Keaton makes this story come alive. I hope that PBS station will pick these serious of stories for a future mini series. Or Netflicks is another avenue to explore. M. J.

Clearly a lot of love and research went into this book. I really loved Penny, and kept running back to the book when I got interrupted so I could see what was she was thinking or doing next. It was an interesting read from start to finish, and I did not foresee the end at all. What a pleasant surprise that was! Loved it and will read the others in this series for sure! Kindle Reader

Excerpt

Penny

Chapter 1

France September, 1936

The dew glistened in the early morning sunshine. The birds sang and in the distance she could see the townspeople getting ready to start their day.

It wasn’t fair. Life was going on just as it always had. But this was no ordinary morning. They should be here paying their respects. Hadn’t they been her friends, neighbours, and the people she had worked for?

It was all his fault. Penny swore revenge as she stood on the side of the grave, holding a single flower. After everything she had been through, the woman just buried deserved more. She hadn’t asked for much. Simply to lie beside the man she had loved and lost all those years ago. But, even in death, there were those determined to keep them apart.

Monsieur Albert coughed nervously. He was standing a little behind her, holding his cap in his hands. Penny was grateful for his presence, even though she knew it was only the promise of some francs that was keeping him with her. As he picked up the shovel, she sighed and threw the rose into the gaping hole. I can’t leave you here alone. I won’t.

Penny knew she was fooling herself. There was nothing here for her now. She had little money and had no idea where she was going. He had made it clear that he expected her to fill her mother’s place, so she had to leave.

Holding her back straight and head high, she dried her eyes, picked up her belongings and walked back through the village towards the station. Some of the villagers stared at her while others looked away.

It took all she had to keep walking and not crumble to the ground. She wasn’t going to let anyone see how much she was hurting. She had to keep moving. Later, there would be time to grieve.

Just then, she realised someone was calling her. She turned to see Madame Bayard gesturing for her to come into her home. She loved Madame, who had always treated her as the grandchild she never had.

Penny had been deeply hurt when she hadn’t turned out to pay her respects. Part of her thought she should ignore the other woman. The other part needed to know why Madame had forsaken her mother.

“Come inside, my dear. Please, come inside.” She waited until Penny closed the door before continuing. “I am so sorry I didn’t come to pay my respects, but he warned me that he would cause more trouble for you, ma petite chérie. Sit down, now, and eat some breakfast.”

Penny looked at the table.

“I’m not hungry.” Even as she said the words, the rumbling of her stomach gave her away.

“Penelope, my darling, you are angry. It is understandable, but there are things that you do not know. Listen to me first and then cast your judgement. Haven’t I always been your friend? Come now, girl. Sit down here and drink some coffee. It will help with the shock. Your dear mama thought that this day may come and she trusted me with something special. She didn’t want him to get his hands on it.”

The old lady moved to the fireplace and, removing a small brick from the wall, uncovered a hiding place. Reaching inside, she drew out what appeared to be a compact black satchel.

“This belonged to your father, God rest his soul. It contains some francs, your parents’ marriage papers and those of your birth. You will also find the address of his family in London. I have bought you a ticket on the next train.”

“I don’t want it. They didn’t want anything to do with Mama or me when she was alive, so why bother now? And, anyway, who is to know whether my father’s family will want me? They seem to have decided years ago that we weren’t their relations.”

The old lady looked at her, and Penny could see pity as well as love in her eyes.

“Ma petite, you need them. They are your family. Where else are you to go? You cannot stay, much as I would love to offer you a home. I can’t protect you against him. You are already in considerable danger and you must leave here today.”

“I won’t go and he can’t make me. I could stay here with you in the village. The other villagers would protect me.” Penny looked up and saw her own tears mirrored on the wrinkled face. They both knew that nobody would stand up to him.

“Oh, Madame, why did she have to leave me?” Penny mumbled as the old lady gathered her in her arms.

Openly weeping, Madame replied, “She died trying to save you. She loved you so much, Penelope—always remember that. Now you must go. You must seek shelter and grow into the fine young woman your mama dreamed of. One day, you will be strong enough to seek and find justice, but today is not that day. You saw what happened this morning. People are so afraid of him they didn’t go to your poor mama’s burial. I had to stay here. I couldn’t risk not being able to give you the bag. But, if I were a man or my Bernard was still alive, this day would never have happened.”

Realizing how much the old lady was hurting, Penny tried her best to give her comfort. She found herself agreeing not only to go to London to find her father’s family, but to writing to Madame to confirm she had done so.

“Every day I will look for your letter, ma chérie.”

“Why don’t you come with me?”

Madame shook her head sadly. “This is my home and I cannot leave Bernard or my sons. Who would lay flowers on their graves if I leave? No, my dear, this is your journey. Just remember that you always have someone who loves you and who will be waiting for your return. You are the grandchild I should have, but the last war took that from me. Now go, child. Please, before he comes for you.”

Penny hugged the older lady fiercely. “I swear I will come back when I’m older. He will regret ever touching Mama. I won’t rest until he is revealed for what he is.”

Madame Bayard shook her head sadly. “No, my precious. Do not let him take more than he already has. Your best revenge is to be happy. Grow into a woman your mama would be proud to call her daughter. Remember, she loved you very much. She gave her life so you could be free.”

Penny swallowed hard before taking the wallet and pushing it inside her blouse. After one last hug, she ran for the door, heading for the train station.

*****

Penny’s journey to London, although long and tiring, passed uneventfully. Arriving in the city, she was grateful her mama had always insisted that she speak English as well as French. She was able to make herself understood, although her accent had caused a few laughs here and there.

Generally, people had been quite friendly. An ex-lady’s maid on her way home from the Indies had insisted on taking her under her wing when she found Penny was travelling alone to Belgrave Square. The woman left her at the corner of Hyde Park with instructions to walk down Grosvenor Crescent and from there she would find the square.

Penny was grateful the lady’s maid had left her alone with her thoughts. She sat in the square near the statue of Christopher Columbus for a while, trying to gather her composure. She couldn’t believe her papa had grown up in these surroundings. She felt out of place and wished with all her soul that she was back in France in the cottage with Mama beside her.

She fancied she could hear her mama whispering to her, but she knew it was only the wind moving the leaves on the trees. Come on, you can do this. She stood up, straightened her back and walked resolutely towards the house. The door opened almost as soon as she arrived.

“Be gone. The family do not give to beggars at the door. Now go, before I call the police.” She assumed that this was the butler from his uniform.

“My name is Penelope Hamilton. Please tell Sir John that his niece is here.”

Penny ignored the look of surprise and disdain in the servant’s eyes. He motioned for her to come inside and told her to wait. She acted as if standing in hallways of such magnificent houses was something she did every day. Her eyes took in all the details, from the plush carpets to the beautiful ceiling roses. The smell of beeswax polish and freshly cut flowers was intoxicating. She had never seen such opulence, but she was not going to let the servants guess that. Papa left all this to live in the village with Mama, He must have really loved her.

*****

Penny sat on the edge of the bed hoping she wouldn’t get the covers dirty. The white linen sheets sparkled against the backdrop of the brown bedstead. Dimly she heard a knock on the bedroom door before a servant entered. The blonde haired, blue-eyed girl smiled warmly before introducing herself as Thompson. Penny didn’t think the servant was much older than she was. She wondered what her first name was as the girl ran her a bath.

Penny undressed quickly before lowering herself into the water. She wasn’t used to being naked in front of others. The girl was talking really quickly. Penny had to concentrate hard in order to understand what she was saying. Penny’s hope that the water would calm her nerves proved futile. A tear ran down her cheek, quickly followed by a second and a third. She brushed them away impatiently. Mama would hate to see her crying and showing weakness. Gracie came into the bathroom, Penny suspected she had seen her crying.

“Here, let me help you wash your hair. It’s a beautiful colour, almost purple it’s so dark. And so long. Now, what’s your name, Miss?” asked Gracie.

Penny tried to speak up but her voice came out as a whisper. “Penelope but everyone calls me Penny.”

Gracie smiled before inviting her to get out of the bath. She gave her a towel before moving over to the wardrobe to select a rose pink dress. Penny gasped with pleasure. She fingered the material carefully.

“It is beautiful.”

“Yes Miss, it is. The colour will be lovely on you too with your dark hair and eyes.”

“I can’t wear it. It is not mine.”

“Yes, you can, and you will, Miss Penny. Your grandmother expects you to look like a lady of the house, and if you don’t, it will be me who gets into trouble.”

“But …”

“No buts. Now, get a move on or we will both be in hot water with your grandmother.”

“Hot water? She will want me to have another bath?” Penny struggled to make sense of what Gracie was saying, causing the other girl to laugh.

“Oh, no, Miss. That is just a saying us English have. It means Her Ladyship will be angry if we don’t get you downstairs. Now, put on this dress and then hold still while I do your hair.”

Penny watched as Gracie worked all of her hair into a magnificent creation of ringlets. Staring into the mirror, she could see her mama looking back at her. She gulped. “I look like Mama,” she whispered as a tear rolled down her face.

“There, now, Miss, you look beautiful. Hard to believe you are the same person. That colour suits you. Miss Harriet, she’s your cousin, will turn green with jealousy when she sees you in that outfit. She is so used to being the belle of the ball around here. You don’t look a bit like her with those dark eyes and that hair. Altogether a prettier picture, although don’t you go telling her I said that.”

“Thompson—do I have to call you that?”

“Well, Miss, that is what people like you do. None of the family ever call us by our Christian names. But, well, my name is Gracie.”

“Thank you, Gracie, for being so nice to me and for making me look like this.”

“Oh, go on with you, Miss Penelope. It is easy to make someone who looks like you look good. There, now, don’t you start crying again. Your tears will ruin all my hard work.” She softened her words with a smile.

“Mama only called me Penelope if I was in trouble. Am I?”

“In trouble? No, love, of course you’re not.” Gracie kept her fingers crossed, hoping it was the truth. “I would give you a big hug if only it wouldn’t crush your gown.”

“Merci, Gracie.”

“Come on now, Miss Penny, you cannot keep Her Ladyship waiting any longer. Now, remember: when you enter the drawing room, go up to your grandmamma and kiss her hand. Then greet your aunt and your uncle. Miss Harriet is staying with some friends and Master Hugo is out this evening, so you will have to meet them another time.”

“I don’t even know what my uncle looks like.”

“Oh, he is a lovely man, but only when Lady Louise isn’t around. He may wear the trousers, but she is the boss in that relationship. But this is Her Ladyship’s house, and she is not likely to let anyone forget that. She seems to delight in upsetting your Aunt Louise. But hark at me, I am telling you all the secrets. My big mouth will be the undoing of me yet. Come on, child, off you go now. I will come back to help you dress for bed.”

Penny laughed. “I am not a child, Gracie. I can go to bed on my own.”

“That’s may be, but I will still be here. Just you wait and see.”

Secretly, Penny was glad that Gracie was going to be there when she came back. As she made her way downstairs to dinner, she couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt so nervous. Mama, I wish you were here with me. When Perkins announced her, he almost had to push her into the library, where it was customary for the family to gather prior to sitting down for dinner.

Everyone was staring at her, and for an awful minute, Penny couldn’t remember how to walk. She had to conquer her impulse to run, not just out of the room, but out of the country. She took Gracie’s advice and walked over to her grandmother before curtsying prettily and kissing her hand. The older lady’s reaction confirmed that she had acted correctly.

One of the two gentlemen present came forward and greeted her warmly. “Penelope, I am your Uncle John. I am so glad that you sought us out in your time of need. I am just sorry that your dear mother was unable to come with you. My condolences on your loss.”

“Thank you, Sir John.”

“Uncle John will do just fine. You have already met my wife, Louise, so let me introduce you to her brother, Anthony.”

The second gentleman came forward. “It is lovely to meet you, my dear. I was a friend of your father’s. We went to school together. He was a lovely chap and quite devoted to your mother. I only met her once, but she was enchanting. I see the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.”

“Please excuse me, but the apple and a tree? I am sorry, I do not understand.”

Penny’s confused expression caused the other guests to laugh.

“It is a saying that means you have inherited your mother’s beauty.” Penny blushed, unused to being the subject of male admiration.

“Anthony, do you have to? She is but a child.” Louise’s sharp rebuke irritated Penny, who hated being called a child.

“Please forgive me, Miss Penelope. I have only recently returned from Ireland and have been trying to practise my newly found Irish charm. Now, let me take your arm and we shall go into dinner. I am sure you must be hungry.”

Penny smiled before allowing Anthony to guide her into the dining room. Although it had been hours since she had eaten a sandwich, Penny’s mouth was so dry she felt unable to eat. Thankfully, her mother had taught her how to sit at a formal dinner, so she was able to pass herself off properly. She didn’t make any mistakes with the cutlery or glasses, despite being extremely conscious that her new family was staring at her intently. She felt like an exhibition at a circus.

Louise started to ask her questions, but one look from her grandmother and the subject was changed.

“I know you have only just arrived, my dear, but I do hope that you will consider staying with us. Our house is your home.”

“Thank you very much, Sir-I mean, Uncle John. You are very gracious, but I hope one day to return to live in France.”

“To live with your mother’s family, perhaps?” asked her uncle.

“No, Mama’s family is all dead. I would like to return to live in Mama’s house.”

“On your own? That’s ridiculous. That wouldn’t be seemly,” said Louise, looking shocked.

Penny tried her best to remain civil, but rewarded her aunt with a cold look.

“France is and always will be my home, madam. I would like to be near my parents,” Penny replied firmly.

“Now, I don’t think we really need make plans for the future just yet. After all, Penelope has only just arrived, and I am sure we would all welcome the chance to get to know each other properly. Harriet and Hugo have yet to meet their young cousin. Now, let’s enjoy the lovely food Cook has prepared for us, shall we?”

Penny smiled gratefully at her Uncle John and was slightly shocked when he winked back at her. He reminded her of Papa.

At the end of the meal, her grandmother led the ladies to another room, leaving the men to their brandy, cigars and talk of Germany.

“My newfound granddaughter looks rather tired. I think she should go to bed, don’t you, Louise?”

Although it was presented as a question, it was obvious that the old lady didn’t expect a reply. Louise rang for Perkins and asked the butler to take Penelope to her room.