Dress rehearsal went until five that night and now Amanda sat on her deck, watching the sunlight fade over the lake. She hadn’t heard from Josh in a week, and so that was probably that. She wasn’t moving to Hollywood, wasn’t ready to be the girl on his arm in the dozens of paparazzi shots featured every week.
She had her life in Woodland, her quiet place on the lake. Josh was, well, he was a piece of her past. Nothing more. It had been ridiculous to think there could be more between them when their worlds were so different. He was gone, and they would both be better for it. She hugged herself, warding off a chill.
Then why was she so lonely?
An eagle dipped low and snatched a fish from the lake. She watched it and wondered. Where was its mate? The two great birds were always together until today. Was that how she looked to her students, her parents? Like a lone eagle, someone to feel sorry for? She glanced at the house next door. It was bigger than hers, empty for nearly six months. In fact it had only just been bought. Some investor from out of town, from what the neighbors were saying.
Maybe the new owner would be more than a summer resident, someone who she could become friends with, someone to help ease the hole in her heart. She sighed. The first stars were piercing the dusky blue. She almost wished she could keep nightfall at bay. Something about the darkness made her more likely to think about Josh, to remember every detail of their meeting at the bridge and the phone calls they’d shared since.
A car sounded in the distance, but Amanda didn’t pay it attention. Probably one of the neighbors or even the new people from next door. There were just a couple dozen cabins along the lake, all of them behind a private gate. Usually the only visitors this time of day were the deer and rabbits that made their way from the foothills down to the water.
She didn’t hear the sound of anyone coming, but after a few minutes there were footsteps on the deck. Who would be . . .? She turned and her breath caught in her throat. What was he doing? How had he come and how had he found her? And more than that, why? She stood and her hands fell to her sides. “Josh . . . what . . .?”
A smile lifted the corners of his lips and he came to her. For a long time he hugged her and rocked her, running his hand over her back. “I couldn’t stay away, Amanda.” He whispered the words into her hair. “I’ve thought about you every minute.”
Suddenly she was seventeen again, dancing in the arms of the only boy she’d ever loved, swaying above the traffic on Highway 1 and savoring the feel of Josh’s arms around her, the sound of his sweet voice near her ear. Was this really happening? “I can’t believe you’re here.”
His grin got bigger and his eyes shone. “You know what I wanted to do that day at the beach?”
She felt her heart soar within her. It was happening! Josh Nelson, the boy she’d fallen for a decade ago, had come back to her, at least for a day. She could see in his eyes that he’d left every bit of the pretense and plastic of Hollywood behind. He wore jeans and a plaid wool shirt. His face was cool against hers and his cologne mixed with the smell of pine in the air.
He looked out at the lake. “I can’t believe this place.” He breathed in deep. “It’s beautiful. Just like you said.”
“Yes.” They slid their arms around each other and faced the water. “I never thought for a minute you’d see it for yourself.”
This time he turned to her and with tender hands he framed her face and kissed her. When he pulled back he grinned. “Besides,” there was teasing in his voice. “I thought it only right that I shake your hand in person.”
Amanda’s head was spinning. What did he mean, and how come he was acting so strange. She made a face, trying to understand. “Meaning?”
“Well,” he pointed to the cabin next door. “We’ll have to take things slow, you know. Since we’re going to be neighbors and all.”
Her mouth hung open and she searched his eyes. It took a minute for the news to sink in, but when it did, she fell into his embrace. And somewhere over the distant lake, the final rays of afternoon sun illuminated the eagle and she noticed something that felt as right as Josh being there. There wasn’t one eagle like before.
There were two.