"She did not have to kill him."
"Didn’t she? He was un cochon de Nazi." As far as Anna was concerned Katrine was correct. The man had been a Nazi pig.
For a moment there was no response. Then Katrine spoke again. "I’m not happy about…what she had to do either, but I do believe she did what was necessary. Can we just let it go at that?"
"Very well," he responded reluctantly. "You have always seen things in her that others have not. I just hope your trust is not misplaced."
"If you have concerns, my old friend, let’s hear them."
"It is nothing specific, but she was in the market last week when our courier was killed and she was uninjured."
"You think she’s a sympathizer? Maybe she was just smart enough not to get involved when Nicolas got into trouble."
"I find that highly unlikely. She has a volatile nature."
Anna had been present when the courier was killed. She remembered running to his defense and the ensuing gunfight with the soldiers. There had been a sharp sting at the base of her spine and then…nothing. It didn’t make sense and she didn’t know how she had survived, but she had no intention of explaining herself to the bartender. It was enough that Katrine had defended her. Apparently the lectures she had anticipated would not be coming.
The young woman suddenly realized how weary she was and turned away from the conversation. All she wanted now was to hide her dark mission clothing, take a hot bath and go to bed. Tonight had been the last of their planned assaults and she hoped tomorrow would bring better things. The image of Katrine’s blue gray eyes pinned on her as she sang in the nightclub flashed through Anna’s mind and she knew the woman wasn’t indifferent to her.
Anna could feel something sharp and sensual when their eyes met, something tangible. Once things settled down a little she intended to find out just how interested the beautiful woman was.
For the next six days Ste. Clair was awash in a sea of turmoil. The Allies had assaulted the beaches of Normandy and were moving inland. Nearly all of the Nazi garrison in the city had been mobilized for deployment to the front. No one came to demand answers and when the air finally cleared and the soldiers moved out, there was the feel of celebration about the small city. The war was not over but on that night, almost a week later, Anna could feel it coming.
Le Coeur was closed in honor of the occasion, as were most businesses; the residents happily at home with their families. Anna decided that now was the perfect time to implement her own mission. All those nights singing in slinky dresses for the Nazis she had watched Katrine mingle with the guests in her white tuxedo. The image would spark a sharp cord of desire that raced down Anna’s spine and she couldn’t help wonder if Katrine would experience a similar response should the tables turn. Tonight she would find out if Katrine could feel as she had so many times; breathless, confused…bewitched.
Anna had set the stage carefully. Only two people other than herself were at the club. Thomas had retired to his rooms and Claude, the piano player, sat in attendance at his Baby Grand. He was instrumental to Anna’s plan and it had been well worth her meager week’s pay to hire him for the evening.
She had dressed with great care, pulling on the formal attire she had obtained from the black market. The black jacket hugged her curves as though crafted especially for her. A satin strip of ebony ran the length of the trousers on either side and she could feel the tails from the coat caress the backs of her thighs even through the heavy cloth. To contrast the dark tailcoat and trousers Anna wore a starched white shirt. It was buttoned at the throat to display a black bowtie. Shiny black flats adorned her feet to complete the look. She wished she could add silk hose to the ensemble but they were too hard to come by in a war-torn country.
She took as long as possible to dress, but finally knew it was time. Katrine had been meeting with Commandant Schwemmel about the troops leaving town, but was due to return at any moment. She took a deep breath to try and slow her pounding heart. Anna knew she was stalling because she was afraid her efforts would be in vain and that Katrine could not return her love. She didn’t know if she could stand to see rejection in the slate blue eyes, but she had never before been a coward and had no intention of starting now. Either way, she would have her answer.
Anna mentally braced herself and left her rooms headed to the lounge. Claude was already in place with his back to the room quietly playing the piano. He had been busy and Anna smiled as she looked around. All was in readiness. All the tables save for one had been pushed to the side to allow for dancing. She hoped Katrine would want to dance with her, but for the moment her focus was on the single table to ensure everything was just right.
It sat closest to the edge of the makeshift dance floor. In the center a bottle of champagne chilled in a silver ice bucket. Two fluted glasses sat next to the condensation-covered bucket and for an instant she was tempted to start without Katrine. Her nerves cried out for the liquid courage, but common sense prevailed.
The scrape of a key in the lock caught her attention and drew her eyes toward the door. Anna’s heart pounded even harder as Katrine entered and the door closed behind her. Suddenly the young woman’s nerves took hold of her and she was ready to bolt. Her palms grew sweaty and Anna wondered if she could get out of the room before Katrine made it around the screen, although it was far too late for that. She discounted the thought even as it occurred to her. Katrine was worth any amount of nervousness she had to endure.
Katrine smiled as she stepped up to the club’s door and slid the key into the lock. The meeting with Commandant Schwemmel had gone very well and she was certain he didn’t suspect any of them for the attacks around the Nazi compounds. On the contrary, he had offered to leave a contingent of soldiers behind to protect Ste Claire while the bulk of his men were sent to the front. Normally this would have been the duty of the Mayor, and indeed the man had met with Schwemmel, but Katrine shared a close relationship with the Commandant and he had met with her out of courtesy. Katrine had gracefully refused the offer and assured him they would be fine. For the first time in two years she had walked home after curfew hours without fear of being stopped and questioned. Only Anna’s actions from a few nights ago weighed on her heart.
Katrine knew the singer was deeply affected by taking the soldier’s life and she wished there was a way to reach out to her. Sighing, she knew it was more than that unpleasant situation that called out to her and made her want to connect with the recalcitrant young woman. As stubborn as Anna could be Katrine sensed the sensitivity underneath. When their eyes met Katrine easily forgot that she was at least ten years older and all she wanted was to be closer to her. Now it looked like the Reich was leaving and the Resistance would no longer be needed. Anna would leave Le Coeur in search of another cell where she could still be useful; she would leave Katrine.
The door opened and for the first time the tinkle of the little bell overhead didn’t cause her to feel any better. Most of the lights in Le Coeur had been darkened, but soft piano music filled the air. It was unusual for Claude to still be playing in an empty club and she wondered why he hadn’t gone home. Perhaps his empty apartment held little appeal and he simply preferred the friendly warmth of Le Coeur. Katrine had just taken a breath to tease the man when she rounded the corner and was met by a sight that froze her in her tracks.
Her eyes narrowed as she swept the lounge in a glance, missing nothing. Claude played the piano with his back to the room. The piano had been pushed over to a darkened corner to make him as unobtrusive as possible. The floor had been cleared and a single light illuminated the spacious area, highlighting Anna who stood center stage. Her long golden hair had been brushed out until it shone like the sun. It fell softly over the lapels of the ebony tailcoat and was held back from the beautiful face by a silver comb at each temple.
Her gaze started at the top and swept down over the long, curvaceous body. The formal coat hugged Anna lovingly and Katrine could just see the tails that brushed the backs of her knees. Satin stripes on the black trousers caught the overhead light and blazed a trail to shiny black shoes. Katrine’s eyes started up again to take in a white, wing-tipped shirt and the place just above the collar where Anna’s thundering pulse was clearly visible.
The obvious signs of the young woman’s nervousness caused Katrine’s heart to melt and her blood heated so quickly that the room narrowed down only to Anna. Outside it felt like the war was ending. Inside it felt like her life might be truly beginning.
"What’s all this?"
The question was low and smoky, deeper than she’d ever spoken before. The obvious shiver that traveled through Anna’s body at the tones brought a slow, seductive smile to Katrine’s lips that she made no effort to suppress.
"I… I thought a celebration was in order."
Anna smiled and gently held out a hand toward her. In the formal clothing the gesture was magnificent and called out to the romantic Katrine kept carefully hidden. Unable to resist, she accepted the hand and stepped up beside the younger woman who obviously felt the same way Katrine had since the first moment they met.
Katrine’s eyebrow went up and the familiar quirky smile touched her lips as she nodded in acceptance. She felt somewhat underdressed next to the other woman’s elegance, but Anna didn’t seem to notice.
"You look wonderful."
The heartfelt compliment surprised Katrine and she flushed slightly. "I should have said that to you. You’re an absolute vision. Where did you find such a spectacular tailcoat?"
"The black market, of course."
Anna smiled and poured two flutes of champagne before handing one to Katrine. The nightclub owner took a small sip and enjoyed the sensation as the fine wine heated her empty stomach.
The romantic atmosphere, the champagne and even Anna’s attire made Katrine feel bolder than usual and she asked, "So what’s this about?"
Anna frowned briefly and asked in a suddenly unsure voice, "Do you deny what is between us?"
"No, Anna. I’m just not sure we should allow this."
"Because you doubt my feelings?"
"Not your feelings, not really." Katrine slowly sat the glass on the table. "But what happens tomorrow when you change your mind? Tonight there is magic in the air and anything seems possible."
The words were too serious and Anna knew her protestations wouldn’t change Katrine’s mind. Only her actions could do that. The wine would keep in the ice bucket so Anna answered by holding her hand out.
"Dance with me."
Her voice was soft, beseeching rather than demanding. Katrine hesitated only a moment. She took the hand as Claude began to play ‘Moonlight Becomes You’. Anna pulled her close and began to sway to the music, looking deeply into her eyes. The fireplace crackled behind them and shadows danced beside them. As they moved Katrine felt the last of her resistance vanish. She slowly relaxed against Anna until by the end of the song her cheek rested against a strong shoulder.
Their bodies were molded closely, their legs fitted together. Katrine felt Anna dip her head. Breath whispered against her neck and their movements flowed right into the next song. Anna pulled away slightly and Katrine looked up into her clear, blue eyes. She saw her own desire mirrored there.
"I won’t change my mind." Anna’s voice was soft and sure.
The blonde head lowered slowly and as their lips met, Katrine captured an aroused gasp in her open mouth. She wanted to plunder the softness she discovered, but suddenly remembered Claude at the piano. Katrine drew back and placed another quick kiss at the corner of Anna’s full lips.
"Could I persuade you to move this to a more…private setting?"
Anna’s blue eyes shown teasingly when she asked, "What did you have in mind?"
The effect on Katrine was visceral. Suddenly she didn’t care that Claude was present. She cared only about getting the other woman alone. "My rooms."
Anna nodded gently and asked, "Should I bring the champagne?"
"I’m not thirsty right now."
The walk upstairs to her rooms didn’t take long, but Katrine felt the anticipation build with every step. By the time they closed the door behind them she was trembling. Anna seemed to feel her tension and gently placed her hands on Katrine’s shoulders from behind. She pulled the other woman back against her and whispered gently, "Relax, Katrine. Trust me. I will not hurt you. I want only to love you."
The words prompted her to ask, "Do you? Do you love me?"
"Surely you must know I do. But what of you, Katrine? Do you hesitate because you do not feel the same?"
"No." Katrine spun to look at Anna intently. "I’ve known from the moment we met there was something special about you. I just never expected anything like this. I never expected to love someone so intently. When you look at me, nothing else matters."
"Then I believe there is only one thing left to do."
"Oh?" Katrine raised an eyebrow and asked, "And what would that be?"
Anna’s lips gently and briefly caressed her own. Katrine knew her life had changed with the kiss and while the thought was frightening it was also exhilarating. She had thought to plunder Anna’s sweet softness while in the lounge, but now that they were alone and the outcome of their encounter a foregone conclusion, her desperation was tempered. She gently reached up with both hands to hold soft cheeks between her palms and softly explored the full lips with her tongue.
The warmth of Anna’s skin under her tongue, the heat of her breath as she panted into Katrine’s mouth was the most sensual thing the nightclub owner had ever experienced. Anna groaned in arousal under the onslaught and Katrine finally relented. She claimed Anna’s mouth in their first, deep mind-shattering kiss.
Katrine slowly realized that Anna’s hands had moved. At first she had wrapped her arms around Katrine’s waist but now her hands slowly trailed upward, reaching for the zipper of her dress. Katrine broke the kiss and smiled.
"In a hurry?"
"I need to see you."
Anna’s voice was breathless and her blue eyes glinted with her excitement. She was waiting for Katrine’s permission to continue and found her answer in the slate blue gaze. Slowly Anna drew the zipper down. The dress dipped low in the front and Anna followed its progress hungrily with her eyes. Slowly they undressed together, taking the time to drape the tailcoat carefully over a nearby chair.
When Anna led her to the bed Katrine was suddenly nervous again, but nothing could have stopped her now. Naked together for the first time Katrine moaned at the sweetness of Anna’s flesh against her own. Their touches were warm, tender, almost fleeting, but intensely felt in their hearts. Katrine’s breath burst from her as Anna explored her throat and breasts with lips and tongue. Hands caressed her knowingly, begging her surrender to this angel that had come from nowhere to ease her burdens and complete her soul.
Anna eased down the full length of her body and Katrine’s eyes closed in anticipation, knowing her lover’s destination. Full lips closed over her as strong hands held her thighs down. She was nothing but raw sensation, yearning toward release in the arms of the woman she loved so desperately. Starbursts went off behind her closed eyes when her release hit. She was shaken and disoriented by the force of the explosion, but when it was spent she opened her eyes to look up at the woman that held her.
Anna looked down at her with a tender look of adoration and the moonlight glinted in her eyes.
"You are so incredible," Katrine whispered. She raised trembling fingers to touch Anna’s face and felt the woman shudder in her arms. Her passion was close to the boiling point and Katrine didn’t want to delay her release any longer. She eased Anna over and began to show her without words how very much she was adored.
Hours later their passion was spent, but both knew that their lives together had only begun. Between kisses and caresses they made plans for what their lives would hold once the war was finally over. The danger from the Third Reich was not completely gone, but both agreed that their days of subterfuge and intrigue were. Now there was only their future together.
Ste. Claire, France during June 1944 just prior to and during World War II ‘Operation Overlord’. Spoilers for the Star Trek Voyager episode ‘Killing Game’. Star Trek Voyager and all associated characters are the property of Paramount/Viacom. No infringement intended.
Written for the Tuxedos and Tailcoats challenge at the J7Faction and as a nod to Casta Diva’s wonderful story ‘Dance with Me’.
"Welcome to Le Coeur de Lion. I am Katrine. The first round is on the house with my compliments under one condition. You leave the war outside."
The words rang in Anna’s ears even when they weren’t in the club. She’d heard them so often over the last few months that she sometimes dreamed them. It was the warm, husky tones of the woman who spoke those words that wove the spell of memories around her even when she should have been concentrating on her mission.
Anna Devereaux shook off the spell, slipping into the darkness as she watched for patrolling guards. Her companions were setting charges around the German munitions depot while she kept look out. With the light of a full moon and an almost cloudless night sky she could easily see the leader of the French resistance, Katrine Durr, as the feisty woman knelt near the rear of the building setting timers. If soldiers came around the corner now the club owner would be an easy target.
On June 5, 1944 the BBC had broadcast a group of unusual sentences the Germans had to have known to be a code: possibly for the invasion of Normandy. It had been a signal that Operation Overlord had been launched and all of the resistance cells had been activated. The first line of the Verlaine poem, Chanson d’automme had been spoken. ‘Les sanglots longs des violins de d’automme’; long sobs of autumn violins. It meant the day was imminent.
The BBC radio station often communicated code from Allied High Command to the French Resistance cells and it was common knowledge to the Third Reich. What was also common knowledge was that the Nazis were unable to break the code. Personal communications and classified war information was often passed along by means of convoluted weather reports so the French underground was listening closely for the follow-up communiqué that would set their cells in motion.
When the second line was heard a day later, ‘Blessent mon coeur d’une langueur monoton’, wound my heart with monotonous languor; they knew the invasion would begin in the next forty-eight hours.
Katrine had immediately ordered an increase in sabotage to Nazi targets around the city. They destroyed communications towers, water towers and ammunition depots; they blew railroad track beds and derailed trains, they dynamited bridges. Every act of sabotage was designed to throw the Nazis into chaos and distract them from the invading Allied armies. Throughout France the story was the same, but so far it seemed to be little more than an annoyance to the Third Reich.
Two days after the daring midnight attacks began the Germans had tightened security significantly and increased patrols around their most vulnerable points. Anna shuddered at how very easily they could be caught and her heart leapt into her throat at that frightening thought. She wasn’t so worried for herself or any other rank and file member of the resistance. Anna’s only concern was for the club owner, their leader. In the last three months Katrine had come to mean everything to her. The thought of her being harmed caused Anna’s blood to run cold and she knew she would sacrifice herself without a second thought if it meant Katrine would live.
Katrine looked up and their eyes met across the shadows. Anna felt the electric contact through to her bones and it took a second to wrench herself back to her surroundings. The timers on Katrine’s explosives had been set. Now if only Thomas would return they could escape into the night before the guards patrolled back into the area. The perimeter was tight and the guards walked the compound continuously. The fact that the munitions dump wasn’t very large gave the resistance cell little time to plant the explosives, but Anna had the guard rotation timed down to the split second.
"Where is Thomas?" Anna whispered harshly when Katrine stepped up beside her.
"He should have been here."
Anna rolled her eyes and forced down her frustration with difficulty. She knew her attitude could be abrasive and was sometimes difficult for Katrine to deal with, but the woman’s trusted bartender was about to get them all killed.
"We must go. The patrol will return at any moment."
Katrine made a sharp chopping motion with her hand that silenced Anna immediately. At first the nightclub singer thought the older woman was signaling that the guards had returned. When she realized Katrine had silenced her out of pique it was more than her strained nerves could bear. It was time to take matters into her own hands, retrieve the bartender and leave before the explosions began to go off.
Without a word Anna turned and headed for the side of the ammunition depot in a crouching run. She heard Katrine order her to stop, but ignored the command. She would deal with the usual lectures later. For now, she more important concerns.
Anna reached the rear corner of the building and peered carefully around the edge. Thomas was nowhere in sight but one of the guards had returned unexpectedly. A stack of wooden pallets leaned against the building and something behind them held the man’s attention.
Thomas suddenly jumped out from behind the pallets and knocked the Nazi’s rifle away as the soldier brought it to bear.
Instead of calling for help the guard pulled a long knife from his belt and drew it back with deadly intent. Anna did not believe Thomas saw the blade. She slipped silently behind the soldier and struck him at the base of the neck with the butt of her blackjack. The Nazi dropped wordlessly to the ground and she was left staring into Thomas’ astonished dark gaze. There was no doubt the soldier was dead and while Anna grieved for the loss of life she knew she had not been given a choice. If he had lived the soldier would have been able to identify the bartender.
"If you are finished playing with the guards may we leave?"
His eyes narrowed at the sarcastic remark, but Anna turned and walked away. Katrine stood at the corner of the building and had unquestionably witnessed the entire exchange. Grateful when no one spoke, Anna passed her silently and led the way to safety.
The trio escaped into the adjacent woods enroute to Le Coeur de Lion. They hadn’t gone far before massive explosions lit up the night sky and the earth shook around them. There was no point in looking back. Because of the delay, they were much closer than originally intended when the blasts went off and the Germans wouldn’t waste much time before initiating a search for the culprits.
The race through the woods was only a mile, but Anna was weary beyond words when they entered the club. She glanced at Katrine as they bolted the door behind themselves and noticed the drawn and haggard expression on the older woman’s face. Katrine abhorred killing, even if the person in question was a murderous Nazi and Anna swallowed against the realization that she had caused this woman pain.
"Katrine?" she began, hoping to be given a chance to explain her actions.
"Not now, Anna. I’m tired and we need to get rid of these clothes before the Nazis arrive."
"Surely they would not search the club in the middle of the night, Madam."
Katrine shrugged elegantly. "We must prepare for the worst. Hide your clothing in the basement. There are some old, dusty crates down there that even the Gestapo won’t be too keen on searching."
Anna opened her mouth to further the discussion, but the other woman had already walked away. The singer lingered near the doorway as Katrine entered the parlor where Thomas awaited her. It wasn’t a surprise when he immediately accosted her concerning Anna’s actions.
"What do you intend to do about her, Katrine?"
"Do? What do you mean?"
"She killed a man. It could mean the death of us all."
Katrine took a weary breath and said, "Thomas, our own actions could mean the death of us as well. The Nazis don’t take very kindly to the resistance and if I’m not mistaken Anna did save your life."