“That’s Liam’s car,” she announced, turning toward Ruby and Aidan. A smile lit her face.
“Daddy!” Aidan called out.
Ruby felt her pulse skitter. She wasn’t sure what emotion was roaring through her as she watched Liam step out of the car. Aidan ran toward him at breakneck speed then jumped into his father’s arms. Ruby placed her hand on her stomach as butterflies did somersaults at the sight of the two of them.
As if in slow motion, Liam walked toward them, Aidan at his side. As he got closer, he locked eyes with her and she felt something shift inside her. It felt so right to have him standing there with them. She couldn’t put her feelings into words, but despite everything brewing between them, she always felt better being in Liam’s presence. Safer. More grounded.
“Hey! We weren’t expecting you,” Honor said. “I was just about to give the tour.”
Liam still hadn’t taken his eyes off Ruby. “Great! There’s no place I’d rather be.”
She looked away, feeling nervous at the intensity of his gaze. The heated exchange from yesterday still stood between them.
“Well, let’s get started, then,” Honor said, the corners of her mouth twitching in amusement.
Aidan planted himself right next to Honor, while Liam walked beside her. With his long legs, Ruby knew instinctively that he was slowing his gait so he didn’t outpace her. Silence stretched between them for a few moments.
“I’m glad you decided to come,” Ruby blurted. “You should have seen Aidan’s face when you pulled up.”
“Me, too,” Liam said with a nod. “I’ve been here before, but Aidan’s never gotten the full tour. There’s nothing better than seeing something through a child’s eyes.”
“So, what determines which animals come to the center?” Ruby asked.
“The Wildlife Center takes in orphaned and injured animals. The goal is to rehabilitate them so they can go back into the wild,” Liam explained.
“It’s very important work,” Ruby said, feeling very grateful to Honor for giving them the grand tour and giving them an up-close and personal look at something so special to her.
“It sure is,” Liam acknowledged. “And she was born to do this.”
Honor and Aidan stopped up ahead to wait for them as they reached the first structure.
“Come on, slowpokes,” Aidan called out, waving them on with his arm.
As soon as they caught up, Honor ushered them toward the white, ranch-style building.
“Let’s check out the aviary. I’ll show you our newest friend,” Honor said.
As soon as they stepped inside, Honor led them to an area where they could see the enclosure through a glass window. A gorgeous bald eagle sat on the ground, pecking at something in a round bowl.
“Cool!” Aidan shouted, pressing his nose against the glass.
“This is Dolly. She’s a bald eagle with a severely injur
ed wing. She can’t fend for herself out in the wild due to her injuries, so we’re taking care of her until she can do it for herself.”
“What happened to her? Did a coyote get her?” Aidan asked.
“No, Aidan,” Honor said in a solemn voice. “A bullet pierced Dolly’s wing. We’re hoping it gets better so she can learn to fly again.”
“I can’t believe someone would do that,” Ruby said. “Aren’t eagles on the endangered species list?”
“Not anymore,” Liam said. “Although it’s still illegal to try to harm them.”
“We need to care for animals,” Aidan said. “Like we did for Rufus.”
“I can’t believe you remember him,” Ruby said. “You were just a little one then.”
“I was almost three when he died, but I remember him giving me kisses and going for walks in the woods with him.” Aidan looked up at her, affection shining in his eyes. “I remember loving him.”