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“So do I,” she whispered as she nuzzled Aidan’s cheek with her gloved hand. Being here at the center was bringing into focus her own love of animals, dogs in particular.

As they walked around the wildlife preserve, Ruby found herself in awe of Honor’s knowledge. Honor explained to her that she had a master’s degree in wildlife biology. To open the wildlife center, permission had to be granted by Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game. Finding a visionary who could make it happen had been key.

“Opening this center was always my dream. Funding was the hard part. I’m fortunate to have partnered with people who really believe in conservation and animal activism. They put their money where their hearts lie. This place still needs the generosity of donors, though. We’re hoping to have some fund-raisers across the state to ensure future programs.”

For the next few hours Honor showed them around. They were able to get a glimpse of a wide variety of animals—bison, birds, wolves, baby elk, a sitka black-tailed deer, moose. Aidan was able to pet a baby wolf named Hercules who had been found abandoned in the woods.

“Do you have any dogs?” Aidan crossed his hands prayerfully in front of him as he asked the question.

“We do have a few. Let’s go meet Rita.” Honor led them toward an area where four dogs were in an enclosure. Three of them were running around and playing with each other while the fourth one was peacefully lying on a mat. Once they entered the enclosure all the dogs came running toward them. Ruby found herself being greeted enthusiastically by a black-and-white terrier who was missing a leg. His name tag read Diego in big letters. Ruby placed her arms around him and hugged him. The sound of Aidan’s hearty chuckle rang out as Diego began licking her face.

Ruby felt the heat of Liam’s gaze as he watched her bond with the dog.

How could she ever have forgotten how good it felt to be around dogs?

“Rita is about to have a litter of babies,” Honor explained, moving toward the golden retriever reclining on the mat. “Any day now.”

“Like Aunt Gracie?” Aidan asked, his brown eyes wide. He began patting Rita on the head.

Honor, Liam and Ruby burst out laughing. Out of the mouths of babes.

“Sort of, but not really. Rita is going to have several at one time and we’re going to have to find homes for them,” Honor explained. “Grace is expecting only one, unless they’re holding out on us.”

“Can we take one of the puppies, Dad? Pretty please with sugar on top.” Aidan held his hands in front of him, crossing them in prayerful fashion.

Liam’s expression was conflicted. “I don’t know, Aidan. We have a lot going on at the moment and puppies are a lot of work.”

“Please,” he begged, shifting his eyes toward Ruby. “I’ll feed him and walk him and teach him a bunch of tricks.”

Liam turned toward her. He knit his brows together. “What do you think?”

Personally, she would love to own another dog, but Ruby wasn’t sure she should even weigh in on it. So much about the future was uncertain. Would she be remaining in Love? If she and Liam couldn’t even agree on her career, how would their marriage survive the challenge of her amnesia?

And there was still so much tension lingering between them from yesterday.

“I think it’s something we should talk about at greater length,” she said in a halting voice. She looked down at Aidan. Her heart sank as she recognized the signs of his vast disappointment. His lower lip trembled while his shoulders sagged. She bent over and tipped up his chin, so she could look him in the eye. Tears shimmered in his warm brown eyes.

“I know that’s not what you want to hear,” she said in a soft voice, “but bringing a pet into the home is serious business. Do you know that a lot of people make impulsive decisions to bring dogs home and then it doesn’t work out? This isn’t a no, it’s simply a let’s wait and see.”

“I think that makes a lot of sense,” Liam said with a nod.

“Why don’t we head back to the main house for hot chocolate?” Honor suggested. Aidan’s mood turned on a dime. Ruby sent her a grateful look for diverting her son’s attention away from Rita and her soon-to-be brood.

Ruby was certain that Aidan’s shouts of glee could be heard all the way back in town. As she walked hand in hand with Aidan as they journeyed back across the property, Ruby felt lighter and more joyful than she had in ages. The beauty of this day hadn’t allowed her to dwell on the tension between her and Liam. It seemed that both of them had tried to put it aside so they could enjoy the Wildlife Center as a family.

Each day was bringing something new and wonderful her way. She just needed to look closely enough to see it. And to embrace the little boy who had swiftly stolen her heart.

Thank You, Lord. For gifting us with this wondrous day.

Chapter Ten

Later on that evening, Ruby stood at the sink washing dinner dishes. Her back was turned to Liam. He silently admired the graceful slope of her neck and the tiny little curls that had escaped her bun. She was radiant, even in all her simplicity. Her jeans and plaid-flannel T-shirt did nothing to diminish it. If anything, it only served to highlight it.

Liam still hadn’t broached the subject of their disagreement from yesterday. Even though things had thawed between them this afternoon, the situation didn’t rest easy on his heart. God had given him the tremendous gift of bringing Ruby back into his life and now he was squandering it.

He’d given it a lot of thought this afternoon. He could have handled the situation better, yet he’d lost control of his emotions and alienated Ruby in the process. Something had to give. They couldn’t continue living under the same roof and walking on eggshells all the time.

Liam moved toward the kitchen counter. He stood close to her so that their arms were slightly touching. Her nearness caused a yearning he had stuffed down inside him for ages. The smell of lavender drifted toward him, causing him to take a good whiff of her light perfume. It was torture to be so close to his beautiful wife and not take her in his arms. So far he had reined himself in, but he didn’t know how long he could continue to do so.

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