Scott tugged his collar up to keep the driving rain from pouring down his neck. A nice change from pulling it up to hide his scars. ‘Do you always walk the hounds when the weather is this awful?’
‘Rain or shine,’ Margaret answered cheerfully. ‘Just like the postman.’
‘I suppose if they’re service dogs, their owners will need to go out in all conditions.’
‘Exactly.’ Margaret nodded at the castle as they headed towards the woodland path. ‘You should see it at Christmas,’ Margaret sighed wistfully. ‘It’s just amazing.’
‘With any luck, I will.’ He gave her a meaningful look. She blushed, then looked away.
The love he’d always felt for her flared hot and bright. Sharing the core-deep anguish he’d been through had made him feel as vulnerable as he’d felt when he’d been snared in the tree as Caleb descended into the woodland below. This time, however, the vulnerability wasn’t laced with fear; it was buffered with hope.
‘I haven’t even asked where you’re staying,’ Margaret said after a few minutes of contemplative silence.
‘Up at The Stag’s House.’
Margaret shot him an impressed look. ‘I didn’t realise the wildfire fighting service paid that well.’
‘It doesn’t,’ he answered neutrally. He’d saved a lot, but nothing like what his savings were now. ‘The equipment manufacturers do when things go wrong.’
‘Ah.’ Margaret swallowed. ‘I’m still shocked it even happened. Weren’t there tests?’
Scott shrugged. ‘Usually. Should have been. It’s another life lesson, I suppose. Not everything’s foolproof.’
She glanced at him and snorted.
‘What?’ Scott laughed and play elbowed her in the ribs. ‘Are you suggesting I’m not foolproof.’
‘Ha!’ Margaret was laughing now, too. ‘I think we both know you are the least foolproof man I’ve ever loved.’
He stopped and pulled her into his arms. Without jealousy he asked, ‘There’ve been others?’
‘Oh, aye,’ Margaret said seriously, though her eyes twinkled with mischief. ‘There’s Rufus and Ajaz and—’
‘Wait a minute.’ Scott pulled her in even closer to him. ‘Are you putting me on a lower rung than your dogs?’
‘They aren’t any old dogs.’ Margaret’s gaze dipped down, then back up to meet his. ‘They’ve been with me through everything.’
‘Sounds like I owe them a thank-you card.’ His voice thickened as he tipped her chin up towards him and said, ‘Give me time. Give us time.’ Then he lowered his mouth to hers. Her lips were every bit as soft as he remembered. Sweet and perfectly matched to his. He could smell her warm, sugary scent as he pulled back to check she was alright with this, comfortable with the intimacy. Her green eyes glowed with consent. He dipped his mouth to hers again and drew kiss after kiss, praying each one meant she was giving him a chance. It wouldn’t be easy, but if he played it right, he just might be able to win her heart back.