Welcome to the next installment of the mini-mystery to kick off the release of Nancy C. Williams’s book, To Love a Falcon. If you haven’t read the first five chapters, follow the links below to do so. And don’t forget to enter the giveaway!
Midnight In Moscow – a To Love a Falcon mini-mystery
“Miss?” The driver stood beside the car, holding the door open for her as his eyes took in the state of her mud-splattered coat. His eyebrows lifted in concern.
Anastasia noticed the man’s own impeccable uniform. It looked brand new – cleaner than clean. Her heart hammered in her chest. She couldn’t go. Not like this.
But just as she opened her mouth to tell the worried driver that he’d best leave without her, Viktor’s face flashed into her mind. The sadness, yet kindness, in his eyes. The look of understanding that had passed between them.
She barely knew the man, but she knew one thing.
She couldn’t let him down.
She glanced down at her pitiful coat, and beyond. Yes… Perhaps all would be well…
It seemed as though her coat had borne the brunt of the filth. Perhaps she could go after all, and merely take off her coat upon her arrival, before anyone else could see her.
“I am ready…” She nodded to the driver, then made her way into the car, hoping that he hadn’t noticed the tremble in her voice. And hoping that he wouldn’t scold her if any of the mud happened to besmirch his car, despite her taking utmost care to ensure that it did not.
The driver settled back into his seat and started the engine. “Cold evening, is it not, Miss?”
Anastasia’s heart sank. “Yes… It is…”
And it would be even colder for her once she exited the car.
As they drove the rest of the distance in silence, she tried to picture how the evening would progress. Would she be able to make small talk with Viktor? Or would the whole thing be a somber and silent disaster? Perhaps he would regret that he’d asked her and not someone like Tanya, who would have no trouble navigating a social event of such prominence.
“Here we are. I take it you are intending to leave your coat here?”
The driver’s voice was kind, and it slightly soothed the flurry of nerves that had broken loose in Anastasia’s chest as the car had pulled to a stop.
“Yes.” A thought struck her. “I will be able to regain it after the party?”
“Yes, miss. I have been instructed to drive you home as well, so I shall keep it here for you.”
Faint relief washed through her. “Oh, thank you.”
She might not have to freeze for very long.
As she thanked the driver again, she exited the car, looking in silent amazement at the grand building in front of her. Lights glowed and voices hummed, as though the house itself were alive with enjoyment.
She swallowed hard, admonishing herself to be brave as she ascended the steps. A biting wind whipped around her shoulders, chilling her so deeply her limbs soon felt stiff.
Inside, all around her was warmth and movement. Dapper men and elegant women danced and laughed, chatted and drank, as though there hadn’t even been a war, or loss, or tragedy. Had she somehow been transported into a different realm, free from the struggles and sorrows of the real world?
The voice from behind her made her jump, gentle though it was. She turned to see Viktor, majestic and flawless. A quick glance at her dress reassured her that the mud hadn’t penetrated her coat. She was presentable, at least.
“Good evening, Mr. Stepanov.” Why did she have to sound so nervous?
His warm eyes crinkled at the corners. “Please… Call me Viktor.” He glanced towards the door. “Your journey here was satisfactory?”
“Oh, yes. Excellent. Thank you.”
Viktor nodded firmly.
Her heart stuttered. Was there unease in his eyes?
His gaze scanned the room. “Shall we dance?”
Something was wrong. He sounded… bored. Already. And she had only just arrived.
She forced a tight-lipped smile. “If you wish.”
A strange sort of laugh met the air as he took her hand and led her towards the dancefloor. “If I wish…” he muttered.
Oh dear… What had she done wrong? Or said wrong? Maybe there was mud on her gown that she hadn’t noticed, or maybe—
“In truth, Anastasia, I care very little for these kinds of events.” A heavy sigh followed his words.
She looked up at him as he placed his hand on her waist and maneuvered their hands into the correct hold for the dance that was about to begin. “Oh?”
It was all she could voice. She hadn’t been this close to a man since Andrei…
She swallowed hard. It didn’t help that Viktor’s soulful eyes caught the light in a way that took her breath away. Or that his strong frame made her feel safer than she had since before the war had begun.
The music started, and they both instinctively moved to the music, going through the motions of the steps they both seemed to know so well.
“But, my father insisted. Good for business, and all that. Most of the people here think more highly of him than perhaps they ought to.”
She searched for words with which to respond, but could think of none.
He glanced at her, then chuckled. “Forgive me. I mean him no disrespect. I merely have little time for such extravagances after… after all that has occurred.”
His gaze met hers, and everything else in the room seemed to vanish.
“This war has taken much from all of us, has it not?”
Viktor’s voice was kind, but full of melancholy.
Tears pricked her eyes. “Yes.”
A few silent moments passed as they shared another—a longer—exchange like the one when they’d first met.
“Do you believe that God answers prayers?” he asked, his voice scarcely above a whisper.
Memories of various prayers she’d prayed flitted through her mind. That God would show her He truly cared about her. That everything would turn out all right.
And she did. She hadn’t been certain before. But, at this moment, she had no doubt.
Viktor twirled her and pulled her back into place again, a little closer this time than before.
“I believe He does, too,” Viktor said. His eyes lost some of their sadness as they gazed into hers. “For He has answered mine this very night.”
As they continued to dance, Anastasia couldn’t help but return the tender smile that had transformed Viktor’s face.
And she knew that God had answered her own prayers, too.
To Love a Falcon by Nancy C. Williams
When life already seems bleak, the Russians send her deeper into Siberia.
Aircraft mechanic Katya Morozov longs for her beloved Mikhail, a Russian naval officer, to return from war. But when an unwanted work assignment takes her far from her home into remote Siberia, Katya faces threats—perhaps because she and her father were engaged in covert protection for persecuted Christians.
A chance encounter with charming test pilot, Yuri Sokolov, turns into more than a passing acquaintance…igniting the flames of a conflict between Katya’s faithfulness to Mikhail and her growing attraction to the enigmatic pilot. Will messages from a mysterious woman in the woods give her the wisdom and strength she needs?
Yuri, who has hidden battles of his own, must likewise make a decision—does he follow his dreams or pursue the lovely mechanic who has captured his heart?
To Love a Falcon, a retelling of the Russian fairy tale “Finist the Falcon,” takes readers into the intrigues of Russian operatives, the stark landscape of Siberian winters, and the courage of those who risk death for faith and love.
Missed any of the other chapters of the mini-mystery?
And this page is Chapter Six, the conclusion!