Margaret blinked as she digested what Scott had just said. Why did he need to prove he was better than his father?
His dad had died just before he’d set off to Canada. They’d never been particularly close, so she’d never really put two and two together. She’d met him only a couple of times, but even a stranger would’ve known Scott and his dad were birds of a different feather. Where Scott had an internal drive to live life to the full, his father had drifted from job to job, only seeking to bring in enough to pay the rent and keep food on the table. It was all they’d needed, he’d said. Not even close had been his mother’s constant reply. Had Scott been trying to prove to Margaret he was worth marrying by working so hard?
‘You know how my mum was never satisfied with our life.’
Margaret nodded. They’d not had a lot of money. They had lived in a council flat, Scott had gone to a pretty dicey school and they had never gone on so-called ‘proper holidays.’
‘When I got the opportunity to do smokejumping, I thought it was the best way to kill two birds with one stone.’ He flinched at his own words, then continued. ‘What I mean is, I thought, ace, I get to add another notch to my bow professionally and also provide the type of lifestyle I wanted to give you.’
He disappeared out of her life because he wanted to make more money?
‘I didn’t want stuff, Scott. I wanted you.’
Scott’s jaw twitched as he fought the film of emotion dulling those bright blue eyes of his. As much as she wanted to throw her arms around him and hug away his pain, the other part of her knew the only way to rebuild the trust between them was by being brutally honest with one another.
‘I need more than that, Scott. Start talking.’
And he did. He told her how the training had been incredibly intense. How becoming the best had consumed him. He knew the dangers that faced him and he wanted to make sure, above all, he was alive and well to live out a long, happy life with her. But he also wanted to buy her a house out in the country. A place where the children they’d talked about having could run and play. Savings for a rainy day. His mother’s bitterness about her own marriage had eaten away at what he knew to be true: the only thing he needed to be happy was Margaret.
Sharp fragments of regret that she’d never gone out to see him crackled through her. She could’ve. Her parents would’ve looked after her sister for a week or two so that she could’ve given Scott some support. She couldn’t believe in all the years they were together he’d never told her how worried he was about providing for her.
‘I still don’t get why you ended it.’
She watched Scott’s Adam’s apple dip and rise as he chose the best way to explain why he’d ripped her heart out of her chest, flicked it to the side, then reappeared out of the blue expecting…she didn’t know…forgiveness?
‘I got a bit obsessed with overtime. One more shift. One more shift, I kept telling myself. One more shift and I can go home, until one day—’ his voice grew raw with the memories ‘—there was a proper rager out in the Canadian Rockies.’
Again she shooed the waiter away, then nodded for Scott to continue.
‘They needed everyone they could get. They were offering this crazy overtime package, and even though we were exhausted from another blaze we’d just done, Caleb and I volunteered.’
‘Your pal? The one you met at training camp?’
‘Aye.’ Scott nodded, gave his jaw a scrub and swore under his breath. ‘This is harder than I thought.’
‘You can trust me,’ she said without thinking.
‘I know. And more than anything, I want you to be able to do the same. If I hadn’t gone, if I hadn’t been so greedy for the overtime…’
A lump formed in her throat. ‘You can’t change what’s already happened, Scott.’
‘I know. I know.’ He met her gaze. ‘Long story short, it didn’t end well.’