Return to Virgin River (Virgin River #19) - Robyn Carr


KAYLEE SLOAN TOOK three days to drive from Newport, California to Humboldt County. She could have done it in one and change, but she didn’t even try. She visited a couple of friends on the way—Michelle, who lived in San Luis Obispo, and Janette, who lived in Bodega Bay. Yes, they were her beloved friends and had been since she was small, except they had really belonged to her late mother. Not only were they each a welcome respite in a long drive, she needed some of their nurturing.

Kaylee was headed into the northern mountains for a six-month escape to write. She had packed as much as possible and leased a house in Humboldt County from old friends of the family. The nearest town was an isolated little burg called Virgin River, a place she knew only vaguely. She’d been to this mountain house before, twice with her mother and twice on her own. It promised no distractions. She was a suspense novelist and was facing a hard deadline on a book. Her writing had been slow and difficult for the past year, during her mother’s declining health and since her death.

As she drove north from Bodega Bay, the landscape became more and more impressive. It was as she remembered—soothing. The redwoods were majestic, the mountains lush and green, the sky a rich blue and the ocean vast and endless. Kaylee made her home in Newport Beach so was no stranger to the ocean, but these trees! They were huge and powerful.

The house in Virgin River belonged to old friends of her mom’s—Gerald and Bonnie. They’d used it as a summer house for over thirty years. When she mentioned to Bonnie that she thought it would be a good idea to get away, to change the scenery and perhaps escape the constant reminders of her mother’s death, Bonnie offered her the use of the house.

“The family will stop going up there after July,” Bonnie said. “I doubt anyone will be going in the fall. Maybe a couple of the kids and their families might want to for a long weekend, but that’s iffy.”

Kaylee could handle that, no problem. She was fairly close to the Templeton kids. She’d known the four of them all her life. And she knew that their cabin was spacious and inviting, warm and comfortable. It was full of leather furniture, soft blankets, lots of decorative accent pillows and deep and cushy area rugs surrounding a big stone fireplace. And the porch was perfect; the views it offered were extraordinary—mountains and valleys and magnificent sunsets to the west. In fall the changing colors would knock her socks off.

She desperately needed to separate herself from Newport Beach, to isolate herself enough to force concentration on the book she was under contract to finish. Living in her mother’s house was too overwhelming and seemed to invite her continued mourning; she felt she had to shake things up to get a fresh start.

Kaylee was raised as an only child. Her parents separated when she was five and divorced when she was six. Her father had very little contact with her after the first couple of years and seemed like more of an acquaintance than a parent. He had remarried and had a new group of children; he later divorced again and yet again. She thought it was only a matter of time before wife number four appeared. On those few times Kaylee met her father’s subsequent families she was polite, but disinterested. She never did understand how her father could leave her spectacular mother, Meredith, for those poor substitutes. She never became close to him or any of his wives or children. He hadn’t really even been in touch, until recently. Her mother’s illness seemed to have had a startling impact on him. It was as if he was suddenly interested in the family he left behind so long ago. With Meredith’s death came even more intense interest from Howard Sloan.

Meredith had been a wonderful constant in Kaylee’s life. It was just the two of them and Kaylee’s childhood had been rich with happiness and perfectly normal. Her mother had been everything to her—her best friend, protector, cheerleader and idol. And then Meredith was diagnosed with lung cancer, though she’d never smoked or lived with asbestos nor worked in a high-risk environment. The doctors pronounced her chances of recovery and survival excellent; everyone expected her to triumph over the disease, but they were wrong. She passed away six months after her