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John stared at Nancy speechlessly, his face burning. He’d been anticipating something when Nancy insisted on coming back to his hotel room after dinner, but not… this! As his silence lengthened, she coloured too.

“Oh, never mind,” she began, pulling away from him.

The hurt in her voice snapped John out of his shock. “Marry me,” he blurted out.

Now it was Nancy’s turn to look startled. “In a second if we could, but how? It’s midnight and we both have trains at the crack of dawn. I know we’re supposed to wait until marriage, but…” she trailed off, then continued, “After the war - if we both - ask me then.”

“After the war? Why not before?”

“Shiver my timbers, before if we can, of course! But it’s months since we last saw each other, and you’re going back to sea… We may not get a chance.”

All true, but… John knew her, and there was something she wasn’t saying. Something connected to why she’d been in London, to war work… Nancy, what ridiculous bravery are you up to now? he wondered. And if he was right, this really might be their only chance. With war raging, and both of them fighting, who knew when - or if - they would ever meet again? Once he would have insisted on waiting, sure it was the only gentlemanly thing to do, but now…

“You’re right,” he said, drawing her back into his arms. “Let’s…” he couldn’t say the words without blushing again, and Nancy laughed.

“Let’s,” she agreed, before kissing him thoroughly.

It was far from the first time they’d kissed - far even from the first time tonight. But John was sure it had never felt like this before, all burning intensity, fanning the flames of his need for her, leaving him breathless. Nancy reached for his collar, discarding his tie and undoing the first buttons; the touch of her fingers felt like fire on his skin as she worked slowly down his shirt. Half-hesitantly, he followed suit, unfastening her blouse. She seemed to sense his nerves, suddenly stopping and catching his hands.

“John? You do want this? We don’t have to…”

“I do,” he replied firmly, willing her to believe him. It was true - he was nervous, scared of hurting or disappointing her, but he wanted her desperately. “So much, Nance. I love you, and I want you.”

Nancy looked at him searchingly, then smiled. “I love you too,” she said, releasing his hands.

He reached for her blouse again, pushing it back from shoulders paler than he expected - of course, he’d always seen them burnt brown by summer sunshine. Even in this wartime winter, he could see a faded tan line, and impulsively bent his head to kiss it. Nancy’s gasp of delighted surprise, the way she half-moaned his name, banished his inhibitions, and he surrendered to his burning desire. If this was to be the only night they had - for months, perhaps forever - he wasn’t wasting a second more being afraid.