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RETURN TO WILLOW LAKE
by Susan Wiggs

Genre: General Contemporary Romance, Contemporary Romance

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“How is this going to work?” Sonnet asked Orlando later that night as they got ready for bed. She felt excited to be at his place, carefully placing her belongings in a small corner of his walk-in closet. “With you being here and me going overseas?”

“Guess we’ll rack up some air miles.”

“I don’t mean booking flights. I mean, how will it work?”

“You mean how will we stay in this relationship.”

He’d called it a relationship. He’d teased her about a proposal—or was it more than teasing? They were making progress, she felt sure of it. Progress toward a goal—that was a good thing, right?

He was the most cautious guy she’d ever known, choosing his words as if they were going to be chiseled in stone. Saying something like “relationship” was serious business to a man like Orlando. She tended to be more impulsive, and he balanced her.

“Thank you,” she said. “That is precisely what I mean.”

“Besides visiting, there’s email and Skype,” he pointed out.

“And that’s enough for you?”

“It will have to be. Unless you’re willing to give up the fellowship.”

“Or you’re willing to give up the campaign,” she said.

“Don’t be silly. It’s not an either/or situation.”

She tried to figure out what she was feeling. Neither of them seemed too upset by the prospect of a lengthy separation. Yet they were in a relationship. He’d given her a key to his place, and even though she’d promptly lost it, they were still a couple. Weren’t they?

“As a matter of fact, it’s probably a good thing we don’t give Delvecchio one more thing to latch on to.”

“Orlando—”

His phone rang, and he grabbed it. She gritted her teeth. Couldn’t he for once let it go to voice mail?

He answered, listened briefly, then handed her the phone. “It’s your mother. She’s been trying to reach you.”

Sonnet grabbed it. “Mom, hey. I, uh, lost my phone today—”

“Oh, no wonder I couldn’t get you. Sorry to call so late.”

“Is everything okay?”

A beat of hesitation passed. “Why do you ask?”

“Daisy said you had news. Geez, Mom.”

“She’s right, honey. I’ve got a little news. Are you… Um, is this a good time to talk?”

“It’s fine. Just tell me, Mom. You’re freaking me out.”

“Have a seat, Sonnet.”

Sonnet carefully set the phone receiver back in its cradle. She felt strangely disoriented as she approached Orlando. He was now busy checking his email on his iPad. “Um…there’s been a change of plans.”

He barely looked up from his screen. “Yeah?”

“Are you listening?”

“Yeah. Sure, babe.”

She hesitated, so filled with the news from home she couldn’t think straight. She wished she felt closer to Orlando in this moment. She longed for their relationship to be further along, so that she could tell him anything and everything. But when she tried to come up with the words to explain, she felt frustrated before she even began.

Meanwhile, he’d gone back to reading on his iPad, the bluish glow of the screen outlining the angles of his chiseled features.

“Orlando.”

“Uh-huh?”

She abandoned the idea of explaining everything to him. So she simply told him, “I have to go back to Avalon.”