‘So…’ Scott sounded nervous. ‘What do you think?’
Margaret looked round the modern glass and timber house in awe. ‘You’ve already put an offer in?’
Scott nodded, crinkles of concern fanning out at the corners of his eyes. ‘You don’t like it?’
She more than liked it, she loved it, but that wasn’t the point. For a man who said he’d learnt his lesson about prioritising her over money, he hadn’t exactly asked her opinion. Was all of this a big show so he could live his way his way yet again?
‘It’s beautiful,’ she eventually conceded. ‘It feels kind of…Nordic.’
Scott smiled. ‘It actually reminds me of the Pacific Northwest.’
Margaret raised her eyebrows. Interesting that he’d want memories of the place that had nearly killed him.
‘I know, I know.’ Scott shook his head as he ran a hand along one of the thick beams framing the wide sliding doors that led out to a stone patio facing the long stretch of blue water and surrounding evergreens. ‘It’s mad, but…if I hadn’t been through what I had, I might never have realised just how insanely I’d behaved. Leaving you behind when you were caring for your sister? It was selfish. I could’ve done the training anytime.’
‘You were young.’
‘I was thinking about me, not about us.’ He pulled her into his arms and gave her a soft kiss. Despite herself, she leant into it. As beautiful as this house was, being in Scott’s arms felt like home. When her hands slipped up to his hairline, he flinched and pulled away. ‘Sorry, I—’
‘Has anyone apart from medical staff seen them?’ Margaret asked softly. ‘The scars?’
He shook his head no. ‘For a long time there, I felt as ugly on the inside as I did on the outside, and until that changed, I didn’t believe I was worthy of love.’
‘What changed your mind?’
Margaret’s brow dived down. ‘How?’
He waved his hands. ‘Nothing untoward. It was listening to her talk about her husband. How much she loved him, how she’d known from the moment she’d fallen in love with him that loving a firefighter came with risks.’
‘And that convinced you that you were worth loving?’
‘No.’ He laughed at the memory. ‘She basically knocked my head against a wall until I began to hear what she was actually saying.’
‘That Caleb’s priorities were always in the same order. His wife, his family, his work, then everything else. As long as that stayed solid, she said she was able to embrace the fears that came with loving a man who risked his life for a living.’
‘I don’t get how that gave you confidence.’ Margaret wasn’t judging; she wanted to understand.
‘I had my priorities in the wrong order. The moment I put you back at the top of the list—a woman who I knew put her family first—I began to feel less dark inside. I had something to work towards.’ He swept her hair back across her shoulders. ‘Someone to be a better man for.’
Margaret rewarded him with a gentle smile. She wasn’t committing to things one way or another, but…there was a glow of warmth in her eyes. ‘Fancy showing me the rest of the house?’