Margaret commanded the dog she was working with to sit, then watched as Esme skipped down the length of the long training hall towards her, waving a paper in her hand.
‘What? The Holy Grail?’
‘No, Little Miss Hilarious. I’ve found my new charity.’
‘Great!’ Margaret whooped. ‘Who’s the lucky recipient?’
‘Plants to Paws.’ Esme held out the paper with a “Ta-da!” ‘It’s run by a chap called Max Kirkpatrick. The charity is the real deal. He set it up with his own money, but a developer’s threatening to buy the land out from underneath him.’
‘Plants to Paws.’ Margaret playfully tapped her chin. ‘Is it for vegan dog owners?’
‘No, silly. It’s for patients at Clydebank Hospital.’
Margaret sucked in a sharp breath. ‘That’s a pretty rough area of Glasgow.’ It was similar to the area where Scott had grown up.
‘I know, but look.’ Esme held out the paper and tapped it. ‘He’s turned a vacant lot into veg plots and a wildflower meadow where patients can garden and visit with their pets.’
‘Sounds great. Scott could’ve done with a place like that when he was in hospital.’
Esme’s eyes narrowed. ‘What exactly is going on with him?’
Margaret looked away, then met her friend’s gaze head-on. It had been three weeks since they’d been seeing one another with increasing frequency. She had to tell her at some point. ‘I think he wants me to marry him.’
‘What? You’ve not said yes, have you? No. Don’t even answer that, because there’s no way you can trust that lying, thieving bastard a second time.’ Esme shook her head, disappointed.
‘He’s hardly thieving!’ Margaret protested.
‘He stole your heart,’ Esme snapped back.
Before Margaret launched into a monologue about how Scott was working hard to prove he’d changed since his accident, she took an emotional step back from her friend’s outrage. Esme had had an experience with an ex that had scarred her as deeply as Margaret had been by Scott. Perhaps even more so. She took cautionary measures to a whole new level. Perhaps Margaret should be taking a page from the same book.
‘The fact you’re not wearing a ring yet should tell you something,’ Esme said seriously. ‘You’ve been hurt once already. Badly. Just because he shows up all full of promises and a shiny new truck—’
‘Hey! You know as well as I do that I don’t care about his financial status. It’s the man who matters.’
‘Precisely,’ Esme said. ‘And what’s he done apart from come back here and tell you his sob story, huh? Taken you out for a couple of fancy dinners?’ Her shoulders dropped as a softness replaced her anger. ‘Mags… You love your life here. He’s only just come back. If it’s meant to be, he’ll stick around, but you need to make sure he wants to and that this isn’t some big huge guilty conscious thing.’
It was a good point. In the years they’d been apart, they’d both changed. As much as she was drawn to him, perhaps she was basing her desire to marry Scott on the hopes and dreams of people who didn’t exist anymore.
The Labrador she’d been working with nuzzled her hand. She gave his head a scrub.
‘I know.’ Esme smirked, then pulled Margaret in for a hug and whispered, ‘But mostly because I’ve learnt from a lot of my own mistakes.’
Margaret squeezed her back. Marrying the wrong man was a mistake she didn’t want to make. Scott had been working so hard to prove he’d changed, but it wasn’t exactly as if they’d been living real life these past few weeks. What if, after the glow of being reunited wore off, he got itchy feet again? What if that job in New Zealand really was meant to be? It all boiled down to one thing. She needed proof. Proof Scott was her Mr Right. And if he wasn’t? Then there was no way she was going to invest any more time in a Mr Wrong, no matter how much he made her tummy tingle.