Finn O’Rourke paced back and forth in terminal 27A of the Anchorage airport. He looked around him, noticing the pine wreaths and red ribbons adorning the walls. The Christmas decorations provided a dose of holiday cheer. For the most part, airports were pretty stark places. He took a quick glance at his watch. His passengers should have met him here twenty minutes ago so he could fly them on the last leg of their journey to his hometown of Love, Alaska. A grumbling noise emanated from his stomach, and he knew it had nothing to do with hunger pains. Butterflies had been fluttering around in his belly ever since he landed in Anchorage. He didn’t know why he felt so nervous.
Perhaps it had something to do with his client, Maggie Richards. Twenty years stood between himself and Maggie. A lifetime really. She was a mother now with a small child she was raising alone.
She’d hired his brother’s company, O’Rourke Charters, and now he was flying her back to Love, where she would begin her new life, courtesy of her uncle, Tobias.
Tobias Richards. He was the reason Maggie and her son were relocating to Alaska from Massachusetts. There was nothing like an inheritance to turn a person’s world upside down, Finn thought. Tobias had gone to glory with a few surprises up his sleeve. Finn had just found out he had also been named in Tobias’s will. Receiving the paperwork last evening had been a mind-blowing experience.
Finn felt a twinge of sadness at the realization that his good friend was gone. He missed him terribly. Tobias had been one of the few people who’d truly understood Finn. And he’d gone out of his way to help him on multiple occasions. In fact, he was still aiding him from beyond the grave.
Finn let out a deep breath. After all these years he was going to come face-to-face with Tobias’s niece, Maggie, his childhood friend. They had been as thick as thieves during her visits to Love when they were kids. Ancient history, he reminded himself. She probably wouldn’t even remember him.
He grinned as memories of catching salamanders and skating at Deer Run Lake washed over him like a warm spring rain. They had shared secrets and explored caves and promised to be best friends forever. His friendship with Maggie had been special, and it had come to an abrupt end mere months before his entire childhood imploded. Perhaps it was the reason why those memories were engraved on his heart like a permanent tattoo.
All of a sudden a woman came walking toward terminal 27A with a small child in tow. She had dark hair and appeared to be struggling with a large-sized piece of luggage. Her tiny companion was dragging a rather large duffel bag behind him. A feeling of familiarity washed over Finn at the sight of her. As she came closer, there was no doubt in Finn’s mind about her identity. It was Maggie!
Little Maggie Richards had matured into a beautiful woman, Finn realized. Despite the fact that he hadn’t seen her in twenty years, Finn would have recognized her anywhere. Those stunning green eyes and the chestnut-colored hair set in a heart-shaped face were quite remarkable.
When she was within five feet of him, Maggie stopped in her tracks. Her eyes widened. “Finn? Is that you?”
Finn nodded. He smiled at her. All at once he felt like a little kid again. “One and the same,” he drawled. “Hey, Maggie. It’s nice to see you. Welcome back to Alaska.”
He didn’t know whether to hug her or shake her hand, so he did neither.
Maggie blinked and shook her head. “I can’t believe it’s you. I was expecting Declan.”
“I work for O’Rourke Charters as one of the pilots,” Finn explained. He didn’t bother to mention he would soon be a co-owner of the company. Finn couldn’t imagine her caring one way or the other. As a widow and single mother making a new life in Alaska, she had bigger fish to fry.
“You always did want to fly planes,” Maggie said in a light voice. “Up to the wild blue yonder.”
Hearing his grandfather’s favorite expression tumble off Maggie’s lips startled Finn. Killian O’Rourke had taught Finn and his younger brother Declan to fly. Finn’s love of flying had come straight from his grandfather’s heart. Killian had been a larger-than-life personality and the most loving man he’d ever known. The ache of yet another loss tugged at Finn. There wasn’t a day in his life he didn’t miss his grandfather and the man’s steady influence and vast wisdom.
He inhaled a deep breath. Being back in Alaska after roaming around the country for several years meant having to deal with the past. So far, Finn wasn’t sure he was doing such a good job of it. When he least expected it, old memories rose up to knock the breath right out of him. He shook the feelings off as he always did and focused on the here and now. Somehow he had to find a way to tell Maggie the specifics about his inheritance from Tobias. He prayed she wouldn’t mind too much.
“Hi.” The little voice startled him, serving as a reminder of Maggie’s pint-size traveling companion.
“Hey. What’s your name?” Finn asked, looking down at the small child standing beside Maggie.
Maggie tousled the boy’s hair and said, “This is my son, Oliver. Oliver, this is Finn O’Rourke. A long time ago we were pals when I spent a few summers in Alaska with Uncle Tobias.”
Finn stuck out his hand. Oliver looked up at his mother, then shook Finn’s hand once Maggie nodded her approval. “Nice to meet you, Oliver.”
“Are you our pilot?” Oliver asked, his expression full of wonder.
“Yep. I’m going to fly you and your mom to the best place to live in all of Alaska. There’s moose and bears and fishing and reindeer pizza. Not to mention we have sled dogs and the northern lights.”
Oliver’s eyes grew big in his small face. “Whoa!”
“Are you excited about it?” Finn asked in a teasing voice.
Oliver nodded his head. “Mom says we’re going to have our own house. We never had our own house before. And she’s going to run a store.” He rubbed his hands together. “And the best part is, she’s going to find me a new father here in Alaska.”
Finn felt his jaw drop. He swung his gaze toward Maggie. There was no doubt about it. Her expression showed utter mortification. He watched as she shot her son a look of annoyance. Oliver smiled up at her as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.
Finn reached out and grabbed Maggie’s luggage and Oliver’s bag. With a nod of his head he said, “Why don’t we go board the seaplane and get ready for takeoff?” He winked at Oliver. “Love, Alaska, awaits you.”