Moments later, Esme jabbed her finger at the computer screen where the news headline made it abundantly clear Canine Companions for the Elderly was definitely not going to be their celebrated charity this year. ‘I’m going to need a million biscuits to make this go away.’
Margaret whistled. ‘That bad?’
‘That bad.’ Esme scowled.
Margaret nodded sympathetically. She’d eaten about a million of Mrs Renwick’s biscuits when Scott had gone to Canada to be a wildland firefighter. Six months training, maybe six months on the job…tops…then we’ll be together again, babe. You and me against the world.
Or Scotland, anyway.
And maybe that had been the problem. Her dreams had always been here in the Highlands and his had been global.
It was why she’d applied for the New Zealand job. To push herself out of her comfort zone. See if she’d been too insistent that they could be happy right here in Cluchlochry village.
She’d always believed happiness was who loved you, not where they loved you.
More fool her.
Esme’s phone rang. Margaret could hear Haimish’s cracking man-child voice coming through the line.
Esme’s shoulders slumped as she hung up the phone. ‘Could you do me a huge favour?’
‘Absolutely.’ Anything to get her brain back on track.
‘There’s some guy in reception who’s looking for a dog to adopt . You’re better at sussing them out.’
‘A: not true,’ Margaret said, though it was nice to have the compliment. “And B? This isn’t a rescue centre. Why’d he come here?’
Esme shrugged, her attention already half back on her computer screen as she trawled through yet more damning headlines. ‘Says he wants a “reject” rescue dog.’
‘We don’t have rejects.’ Margaret bristled. The dogs they bred and raised here were happy, healthy, incredibly talented pooches that changed and saved people’s lives every day. Sure, not all of the dogs that passed through their doors were perfect for the myriad of jobs she trained them to do. But the ones who couldn’t pass the final exams weren’t rejects in her eyes. They were…repurposeable. A bit like her and her mountain rescue skills had been when her blue-eyed boyfriend of six years had decided their shared dreams weren’t good enough anymore. She’d focused on something new—raising and training the working dogs who’d saved her sister’s life—and her life had become better for it.
Mostly better, anyway.
Sure, one half of her large, cosy bed was unoccupied, but all work and no play had turned Margaret into a survivor. The type who did her very best to live in the moment because sulking about a future she was never going to have was too painful.
Move on. I’m a different man now. Though there’ll always be a place for you in my heart, it’s time to go our separate ways.
‘Hellooo? Earth calling Mags! Are you going to talk to him?’
Margaret gave her head a shake and smiled at her friend. ‘Only because it’s you.’ She gave Esme a quick squeeze, then stared at the door, trying to imagine who could be on the other side. Tall? Dark? Twinkly blue eyes that made her tummy flutter?
She fuzzed her lips. Wishing for her dream man to appear on a day like this was like hoping Santa Claus would bring her a private island for Christmas.
A knock sounded on Esme’s door as it opened. ‘Sorry, I’m looking for Esme—’ an all-too-familiar voice began.
Margaret’s entire nervous system shot to high alert.
Scott Campbell was back.