Even after all these years, Finn still struggled with his own past. Just when he thought he had moved beyond it, the memories rose up to cast a shadow over the present. He prayed Maggie would find a way to find closure and embrace her new life.
Not only for herself, but for Oliver as well.
* * *
Leaving Oliver with Ruby and Aidan wasn’t easy for Maggie. But meeting Ruby Prescott had left Maggie with a warm feeling about the woman. With her dark hair and café au lait–colored skin, Ruby was a radiant beauty. She seemed down-to-earth and kind. And like Maggie, she was a mother to a young boy. Aidan seemed like an amiable, content little charmer. Oliver and Aidan had quickly warmed to one another. When she left the Moose Café in order to head back to the shop, the trio was ordering lunch and the boys were giggling over a shared joke. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry over the fact that Oliver didn’t even seem to notice her departure.
Small steps, she reminded herself. Everything in Alaska was new to her and she needed to accept the fact that her little boy was growing up. He would always be her baby, but she needed to allow him to spread his wings.
“There’s stuff in here that needs to be tossed,” Finn noted. He was standing with his arms folded across his chest. He looked handsome and authoritative. Maggie felt thankful he had been here with her when she had first opened up the shop. It had been an absolute shock to see Keepsakes in such a shambles. Back when she’d been a kid, the store had been in pristine condition. Having Finn at her side had made it bearable. It was a comfort to know she wasn’t alone in this. She still harbored childhood memories of helping Uncle Tobias stock shelves and playing with the cash register. Sweet, enduring memories etched on her heartstrings.
“Why don’t we make a toss pile and a viable-merchandise pile?” Maggie suggested.
Finn wiped his arm across his brow. “Sounds like a plan. You also should start coming up with prices. Once everything gets settled you can look online and research how much the items are worth to make sure you’re on track.” He held up a silver frame. “Some of them still have tags on them.”
They began working in companionable silence. She could hear Finn rustling around by the back of the store. She was tackling an area by the front counter. So far she hadn’t come across any of the Christmas items. She needed to get her hands on them so she could come up with a festive window display and set up the front of the store with seasonal items.
She looked over at the front window and envisioned creating a beautiful Christmas display to attract customers. Perhaps a lovely nativity scene or something with lots of bells and whistles.
After an hour of searching through boxes, Maggie finally hit pay dirt.
“Whoa. I think I just stumbled upon the Christmas merchandise.” She lifted the lid off one box and began to poke around inside it. There was an abundance of items. Individually packaged ornaments. Tiny Christmas village display items. Christmas flags. Festive banners. Light-up lawn displays.
Maybe she could set up the Christmas village in the window. It would look beautiful with all the little houses lit up and blanketed with fake snow.
Finn wiped his brow with the back of his hand. “That’s great. All of that stuff needs to be front and center as soon as the shop opens.”
Maggie tugged at another box. It was sitting off to the side with nothing placed on top of it. When she opened the lid she saw mounds of tissue paper. She reached in and gently began unveiling the items. She let out a cry of delight as she laid eyes on the delicate snow globe. Inside was a snowman and a little girl. She shook it a little and watched as snowflakes began to swirl around inside. Maggie let out a sigh. She’d always wanted a snow globe collection. Her mother had considered her request as too extravagant for a child, so her wish for one always fell on deaf ears. After all these years, she still loved the beauty and grace of the glass creations.
“Snow globes. This whole box is filled with them.” She held one up for Finn to see. “Isn’t this exquisite?”
“Nice,” Finn said with a nod of approval. “Those will fly off the shelves.”
Maggie ran her fingers over the smooth surface of the snow globe. It was so beautiful she almost wished she could keep it. But she couldn’t get sentimental over the items. The whole point in owning a shop was to sell merchandise for a profit.
You’re not a kid anymore, she reminded herself. It was silly to feel sad over a snow globe she had never received for Christmas.
“Are you a snow globe enthusiast? You can’t take your eyes off that one,” Finn said.
“I guess so,” Maggie said with a nod of her head. “I’ve never owned one, although as a kid I found them fascinating.”
“You seem to feel the same way as an adult,” Finn teased.
“I suppose I’ve always been drawn to them.” Maggie gently placed the snow globe back in its box. She imagined a customer would pay a good amount for it.
“So tell me about Operation Love,” she called out to Finn, hoping to distract herself from bittersweet memories. “I read a little about it on the internet, but you’ve seen it up close and personal—the successes, the failures.” Maggie had been invited to sign up for the program weeks ago, but it wasn’t something she was considering. For someone who had been burned by love, joining the town mayor’s matchmaking initiative would not be a prudent idea. Finding love was not her objective in Alaska, although she was still curious about the program.
“It’s been great for this town. For so long there was a female shortage. The male-female ratio was really unbalanced. It still is, but it’s not as bad. And there are lots of couples who’ve gotten engaged and walked down the aisle as a result. Do you remember Boone Prescott? Declan’s best friend?”
Boone! Dark hair, intense eyes and a quiet disposition. Boone had been joined at the hip with Finn’s brother, Declan. He’d been the type of kid who had sat back and watched everything around him. It didn’t surprise her how he’d ended up in law enforcement.
“Boone met his wife, Grace, through the program.” Finn chuckled. “Grace came here as a participant in Operation Love, although she was really working undercover as a journalist to write a story about the program and the townsfolk. They had a few bumps along the way, but they found their happily-ever-after.”
“What about you? Have you signed up?” she asked, imagining Finn would be a big draw in this small Alaskan town.
“Nope. And I don’t plan to either. I’m not looking to settle down,” he said in a brusque tone. “I like being single and unattached.”