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How could she ever live up to the fairy tale of her and Liam? But was it right to not even try to forge something with her husband? She had once vowed to love this man for a lifetime. And with every day she spent here in Love, she was seeing the truth about this man with her own eyes. He was a loving father. Generous. And attentive. The fact that he could have been Mr. Alaska sure didn’t hurt. He was the most eye-catching man she had ever known.

She had forced herself to take a good look in the mirror to examine her truths. Then she’d had a long talk with God. He had helped her see things more clearly. It was easier to have one foot in Love rather than invest everything in a life she couldn’t quite grasp. That meant she had an escape hatch. If she wasn’t fully invested, she could always head back to Denver. In the back of her mind, that’s what she had been doing ever since she arrived in town. And even though she had agreed to stay on for a bit, there was no commitment to relocate to Love. Her hands weren't tied. But it also meant that she wasn't giving fully of herself. That had to change!

Now, armed with a fully loaded picnic basket, she was venturing out on a limb and seeing what came of it. And her pint-size companion seemed as excited about this outing as a kid on Christmas morning. He’d been the one to show her where to find the keys to the spare car sitting in the garage. Thankfully, due to Colorado’s climate, Ruby was used to driving on snow-packed roads. She took her time and handled the unfamiliar roads like a pro.

Liam’s clinic was situated in a small, white clapboard house at the end of Jarvis Street. A sweet sign welcomed them to Dr. Prescott’s Office. A festive Christmas wreath hung on the door, adorned with bright red ribbons and candy canes. Adorable snowmen clung to the windows. Ruby couldn’t imagine a more cheery-looking doctor’s office.

As they walked through the front door, silver bells jangled from above them. Aidan giggled and pointed. He began swinging the door back and forth so the bells continued to chime. Ruby shook her head and laughed. The sound of footsteps alerted them to Liam’s arrival before he came around the corner. The look of joyful surprise etched on his face was priceless. Warmth settled in Ruby’s chest at the sight of him. All her nerves immediately settled.

“Hey! I didn’t expect to see the two of you. I thought it might be Wanda coming back from her lunch break.”

“We’re taking you to lunch, Daddy.” Aidan pointed at the picnic basket. “And you won’t even have to leave your office.”

Ruby held up the basket. “We hope you haven’t eaten yet. A little birdie told me you usually eat around this time, so we decided to bring lunch to you.”

Liam’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. He grinned from ear to ear. “Thank you for thinking of me. It’s always nice to break up the day like this.” He motioned them down the hall. “Let’s go set up in one of the empty offices. I have about forty-five minutes until my next patient.”

Ruby trailed after Liam and Aidan. Once they were in the office she pulled a red tablecloth from inside her shoulder bag and began spreading it out on the small table.

“We brought chicken sandwiches and potato salad and cupcakes. Plus, a bag of my favorite chips.” Aidan rattled off the menu. “And a bottle of sparkling cider.”

“Cupcakes! Wow,” Liam said. “You’re going to spoil me.”

“We did a little baking this morning,” Ruby said. “For some reason I really enjoy making cupcakes.” Ruby had discovered when she was living with Trudy and Ezra that baking was her forte. It had kept her busy in the weeks and months during her recovery. And the older couple had appreciated having someone help them around the house.

“You were always an excellent cook, Ruby,” Liam said. “Your specialty was reindeer pizza.”

Ruby turned toward him. “Reindeer pizza? Seriously?”

“It was your favorite.” Liam rubbed his stomach. “Not only to eat, but you baked it to sheer perfection.” Liam kissed his fingers and lifted them in the air. Ruby chuckled at the gesture.

Ruby began taking the plates and utensils out of the basket. She lifted the sandwiches out and placed one on each plate, along with a dollop of potato salad. Aidan and Liam sat at the table.

Ruby made a face. “No offense, but I can’t imagine being partial to reindeer anything.”

Liam shot her a knowing smile. “Don’t knock it until you try it.”

“Don’t hold your breath,” Ruby said in a singsong voice.

“Hey! Wanna see how long I can hold my breath?” Aidan asked. He puffed out his cheeks.

“After lunch you can impress us, A-man. Let’s just focus on this wonderful meal for the moment.”

“Let’s pray over the food,” Aidan said. He reached out his hands on either side of him. Both Liam and Ruby linked their hands with his.

“May I?” Ruby asked. Liam nodded.

“Go for it,” Aidan said. His encouragement made Ruby grin. He was such

a joyful child. It spoke well of the way Aidan had raised him in the aftermath of the tragedy. There wasn’t a single thing about her son that she didn’t love to pieces. Although the idea of caring so much about him scared her a little bit, she was enjoying her role as his mother.

She was acting on instinct and trying to listen to him and gauge his needs. Fake it until you make it. The expression popped into her mind. Ruby didn’t have all the answers, but she was determined to try to be the best mother possible.

She bowed her head. “Thank You for this food, Lord, and for the blessings You continue to bestow on us. Thank You for this day and for all the ones to follow.”

“Amen,” Liam and Aidan said in unison.

They began to eat their lunch, enjoying a companionable silence as they devoured the chicken sandwiches.

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