Liam let out a harsh laugh. “I should have known. You would never come back simply to check in on your kids or Aidan or to meet your newest grandchild, Emma. It’s all about the work, right, Pop?”
His father held up his hands. “Liam, don’t take this so personally.”
“Save it. I don’t want to hear it. And I don’t want you coming around buzzing in Ruby’s ear about how wonderful search-and-rescue missions are.”
“I’m not looking to make any trouble,” Gareth insisted. “We worked together. I wanted to see how she’s doing. After all, she did suffer her injuries in the line of duty.”
Liam took a steadying breath. What was it about his father that always pushed all of his buttons? He wasn’t sure how to put into words how nervy it was for him to show up here. This was one big slap in the face after a lifetime of disappointments. Where had he been for the last two years when Liam had been mired in grief?
“Ruby is fine. I’ll make sure of it.” He spit the words out.
“She has to make her own decisions, Liam,” Gareth said in a softer tone. “Despite everything that’s happened, she’s a big girl.”
“How many ways can I say this? Ruby’s career in search and rescue is over. She nearly lost her life due to that profession. There’s no way I’m ever going to allow her to go back. Not on my watch!”
“Liam!” Ruby’s voice crashed over him like a bucket of ice water. He turned toward the doorway.
Ruby was standing there, a look of horror etched on her face. Her eyes wide, she was looking back and forth between him and his father.
“I could hear the two of you shouting from outside on the porch. What in the world is going on here?”
* * *
Ruby felt as if she had just walked into a war zone. Liam—calm, cool Liam—looked wild-eyed and fierce. He practically had steam coming out of his ears. And the gentleman he was speaking to seemed just as agitated. His brow furrowed, he looked like a kettle about to boil.
“Liam?” she repeated in a tentative voice. “What’s going on?” The tension hanging in the air was palpable.
He shoved his hand through his hair then jerked his chin in the man’s direction. “This is my father. He was just leaving.” Liam’s voice was curt, bordering on rude.
Ruby frowned. Liam hadn’t mentioned anything at all about his father to her, other than the fact that he’d been on her search-and-rescue mission two years ago. Clearly, there had been a reason for that omission. Their relationship seemed frosty at best.
Liam’s father stepped toward her. “Since Liam doesn’t seem inclined to introduce us, I’ll do the honors myself. I’m Gareth Prescott. I can tell by the look on your face that you don’t remember me, but we were friends.”
“You were there that day on the mountain,” she said. She practically had to push the words out of her mouth. It felt like there were cotton balls lodged in her throat. Every time she thought about the accident, dread rose inside her.
There was something about seeing Liam’s father that made her want to ask
him a hundred questions about that terrible day. What had he seen? Had she really saved lives on the mountain? Perhaps by finding out the answers to her questions, the fear bottled up inside her might dissipate.
He darted a glance in Liam’s direction. Liam glared at him. Gareth turned back to her. “I was there that day.” He shook his head. “I wish I could have done something more for you. One minute you were standing there and the next thing we knew the snow-slip swallowed you up.”
“You saw it?” Ruby asked.
“Yes, with my own eyes.” He shuddered. “I never want to see anything like it ever again, although in the search-and-rescue business that’s unlikely.”
Something had been bothering Ruby. It was a tidbit of a detail. She wasn’t sure it was from that mission, but she had to ask Gareth.
“Was there a search-and-rescue dog there that day? A German shepherd.”
“Ruby, why do you want to dredge this all up?” Liam asked. He had a tense expression on his face.
“Because it’s part of me. That day changed my life. I don’t know why, but talking about it helps.”
“It just drags you back into the past,” Liam said with a shake of his head.
“And it might help me trigger some more memories.” She turned to Gareth. “Was there a rescue dog?”
“Yes,” Gareth answered. “There was a dog there that day. He didn’t make it.”