chick-lit · romance

*Extract* The Summer Island Festival – Rachel Burton.

Blurb; When Willow walks out on her own wedding, there’s only one place she can go: Seaview village, on the island she once called home. But she’s not the only islander back for the summer…

Twelve years ago, Willow ran away to the mainland after her childhood sweetheart, Luc, betrayed her. Luc has since become a heartthrob musician, touring sold-out stadiums around the world, but he’s finally come home to headline the island’s annual music festival – and to win Willow back.

As Willow untangles her messy past, she stumbles on a secret that could destroy the island’s fragile community – and her second chance at love…

Chapter One; Willow. Four Days Later… Willow sat on the shop counter looking out of the window at the beach beyond, at the sunmotes glinting off the sea and the white cliffs in the distance. Her phone had been beepingincessantly for days, sending her a stream of endless texts, WhatsApp messages and Facebook requests all of which she’d been trying to ignore. She couldn’t reply because she didn’t have the answers. She didn’t know why she’d run away from the church. She didn’t know why she hadn’t been able to go through with the wedding. Pushing her phone aside she picked up her father’s old mandolin, her fingers tracing the strings, and wondered if she could still remember how to play it. The sensation of the instrument in her hands again made her shiver – music was as much a part of her past as the beach, the cliffs and the sea. Ending up back here after all these years was confusing, asthough she didn’t know which version of herself to be anymore.The bell above the door of the shop jangled, jarring the silence. She must have forgotten tolock the door when she shut the shop.‘We’re closed,’ she called, without looking around.‘Still trying to figure out how to play that thing?’ asked a voice that Willow hadn’t heardin a very long time. She could almost hear that crooked smile in his words. She’d seen the posters plastered all over the place – the Island’s prodigal return from America to play the Seaview Folk Festival. She’d known he was coming back but she’d been hoping to have alittle bit more time to pull herself together before she actually saw him. ‘It’s been a long time Willow,’ the owner of the voice said. He spoke more softly this timeand it sounded as though he was standing closer, even though Willow hadn’t heard his footsteps draw nearer. His voice was unmistakable, even with the American lilt he’d pickedup over the years. ‘Turn around and let me see you.’ She did as he asked, needing to see him even though she knew exactly what he looked like these days. Everybody had heard of him now.

He was wearing scruffy jeans and boots, an un-ironed shirt and a grey herringbone waistcoat, his hair carefully sculpted into a quiff. He was barely recognisable from the boywho left twelve years before, but his face still held the ghost of who he used to be – a dimple on the left side of his mouth, a crooked smile that could melt hearts, eyes as green as thegrass on the clifftops. Of all the times he had to walk back into her life. ‘How are you, Willow?’ he asked without taking his eyes off her. ‘How are you after all these years?’The last time she had seen Lucien Hawke he still went by the name of Luc Harrison and they had both been eighteen. They’d left the Island on the same week and, as far as Willow knew, Luc had never returned.Until now. He had tried to contact her in the aftermath of what happened on that unseasonably warm September night when everything unravelled, writing her letters addressed to her department at university, letters that she had never replied to. She’d ripped them up and put them in the bin at the Student Union so she wouldn’t be tempted to piece them back together again late atnight when the loneliness became overwhelming.‘It’s been twelve years,’ he went on, his lips curving into a smile – lips Willow had loved so much once. ‘I’ve missed you.’‘Why are you here, Luc?’ she asked, finally finding her voice.‘I’m here because of the festival,’ he began, seeming surprised she was asking. ‘I know that,’ Willow replied, her voice sharp and unwelcoming. ‘What are you doing here in this shop right now?’ He hesitated and Willow noticed his eyes flick away from her for a moment. ‘I was looking for Cathy,’ he said. ‘Mum’s not here.’ ‘Can you tell her I was looking for her?’ he asked. ‘I tried calling but her phone was off.’ Cathy Cole’s phone was always off. Willow had no idea why she had one at all.‘What do you want her for?’ she said, turning to face him again.‘I just wanted to…’ Luc hesitated again, cleared his throat. ‘I wanted to…’

‘I’ll tell her you were here,’ Willow replied willing him to leave. But instead he started to wander around the shop, his fingers stroking the guitars that hungon the walls.‘It hasn’t changed at all,’ he said softly. ‘The Island or The Music Shop?’ Willow asked. ‘Both.’ He moved towards the rack of sheet music, carelessly flicking through the musicalscores. ‘So many memories,’ he whispered as he turned to look at her again. Please leave, she thought. ‘Isn’t it strange to be home?’ he asked quietly, but Willow didn’t reply. It was strange to be back in the small village of Seaview on the east coast of the Isle of Wight. It was the place where both she and Luc had grown up and where her mother’s small business, simply known as The Music Shop, was located. As she watched Luc all those memories of her childhood, of her parents and of him, came flooding back.‘I heard about what happened on Saturday,’ he said. ‘I’m so sorry.’ She could feel the blush creeping up her neck at the shame of what she’d done, the reasonshe was back on the Island, the reason her phone wouldn’t stop beeping. Everybody knew that she’d run away from her own wedding, even Luc. ‘I…’ she began, searching for an explanation. ‘I just…’He stepped closer to her. ‘I just needed to be on my own for a while,’ she said. ‘That’s why I’m here, I guess.’ That and the fact that she had nowhere else to go. But Luc didn’t need to know everything. ‘I’d better go,’ Luc said but Willow didn’t want him to leave after all. When he stopped at the door and looked over his shoulder at her again, she felt a wave of relief. ‘Have you seen Skye?’ he asked. ‘I’m only going to be here for a few more days,’ Willow replied as though that was anexcuse. She still cringed inside when she remembered what had happened the last time she’d seen Skye and what Charlie had said. ‘You should see her,’ he said. ‘I think she’d like to see you.’‘Have you seen her?’ she asked. He nodded. ‘It was good to catch up,’ he said with a smile. ‘You never know, you might even enjoy it. It might take your mind off…’ he hesitated ‘…things,’ he said, waving a hand vaguely.

Willow felt suddenly and irrationally angry. Who was Luc Harrison to walk in here afterall these years telling her what to do? Had he and Skye been talking about her, about the wedding, about what Charlie had said to Skye all those years ago? But perhaps he was right. At the very least Willow owed Skye a long overdue apology. They stared at each other for a moment as though neither of them wanted to be the first tosay goodbye. ‘Think about it at least,’ he said eventually as he turned and opened the door. The littlebell rang again as he walked away.

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