The look of concern in Margaret’s eyes told Scott all he needed to know. Coming to Heatherglen had been worth it. He may not win her back, but he just might win her forgiveness.
She was crazy beautiful. More ‘all woman’ than the girl he’d left behind. A woman he ached to take a vow for. To care and protect.
It was what had made him send that insane email two years back.
He hadn’t been fit to care for anyone then. And protect? There were a fleet of doctors and nurses on his case to drop any and all pretense of that skill. He’d felt every bit as useless as he had when he’d watched his best mate’s parachute drag him into one of the worst fires he’d ever seen.
‘Scott?’ Margaret protectively crossed her arms. ‘Do you want to tell me what happened?’
He did, but not here and not now.
‘D’you mind if we take a look at the dogs?’
She threw him a confused look. ‘Are you staying?’
‘On what?’ Her shoulders stiffened.
He hated seeing her respond so defensively, but he only had himself to blame. He’d told her in no uncertain terms that they were over. Mistake number two. The first had been leaving.
He’d known she couldn’t leave her family. Not then. He’d stupidly thought the smokejumper training in Canada wouldn’t wait. At the time it had made perfect sense. Margaret would stay and help her sister, Becca. He’d put his head down, become the best smokejumper in living history, put aside a nest egg the two of them could use for a house…a place where the little ones they’d have one day could play out in the woods unlike the inner-city balcony he’d had to play on. Talk about not seeing the wood for the trees. He’d let a hard-knocks childhood override the fact that he’d found the love of his life and his real priority should’ve been making her happy.
He knew it might take a while, but he was going to do everything in his power to try to do just that. There was a ring in his pocket—he’d been carrying it like a talisman for the past two years. It symbolized the lifelong promise he wanted to make, the house he was hoping she’d want to move into. It would stay in his pocket for the time being. He needed to take things slow. Build back the trust he’d lost. Make sure he was as ready to be loved as he was ready to love. There was no way he’d break a promise to her a second time. ‘C’mon. Show me round. I think you’ll agree I need to explain things.’
She huffed out a laugh. Her fingers traced along her collarbone, her green eyes slipping to half mast before they flared open in a blaze of frustration. ‘What aren’t you saying, Scott? I can tell you’ve been through something awful, but unless you explain everything to me, I’m not letting you anywhere near my dogs, let alone my heart.’
‘A short tour. That’s all I ask. I’d love to see what you’ve been up to since—’
‘Since you up and left me?’ she cut in.
He couldn’t help it. He grinned. There she was. The feisty Scottish lass he’d fallen for harder than he’d fallen for anything outside of fighting forest fires.
He saw the corners of her mouth twitch in response to his smile. The urge to pull her into his arms and kiss her swept through him like…wildfire. And just like that he sobered.
‘What?’ Margaret’s brows tugged together. ‘Why’ve you gone all frowny?’
‘Nothing, I just…’ How did he tell her what really happened? About the chopper being hit by gusts of wind? Falling along with his best mate, their chutes catching air in the nick of time only for the fire that raged around them to turn direction?
‘C’mon, then. Let’s go see the dogs.’ Her voice cracked as she continued. ‘It might be nice for you to meet a truly loyal companion.’