No matter how much she cared for Finn, there was no sense in hoping for something that would never happen. She and Finn actually had a similar outlook on romance. Finn was closed off to relationships and commitment. Maggie had been burned in the not-so-distant past by a husband who hadn’t been on the same page with her or the lifestyle she wanted to lead. Right before her very eyes Sam had changed. And she hadn’t been any the wiser until the bottom fell out of their world. There was no way she was going to set herself up for any more heartache. As it was, Sam’s duplicity had brought her to his knees.
It was wise to keep Finn strictly in the friend zone and keep her heart strictly out-of-bounds.
* * *
Maggie’s a friend and nothing more. Over and over again, Finn repeated the phrase until he felt certain it was seared into his brain.
He’d made a mistake by becoming too attached to the beautiful single mother and her adorable son. He didn’t have any romantic feelings toward Maggie, but he felt protective of her and Oliver. Being such a big part of their new lives in Love was dangerous to his decision not to form any lasting attachments. The night of the tree-hunting expedition, Finn had vowed to maintain a healthy distance from Oliver and Maggie. The lines were getting a little blurred, especially when people like Al started linking him romantically with Maggie.
Finn let out a snort. The tree stand owner had actually thought they were a couple. Finn stuffed down the little burst of joy he felt at being linked with his childhood friend.
Maintaining a distance from the Richards family was a difficult proposition since he was working with Maggie by day in the shop, then watching Oliver each weekday afternoon and some weekends. It seemed as if he couldn’t manage to detach himself from their lives. And it was wreaking havoc on him. Despite his best intentions, Finn was finding it impossible to stay away from Oliver and his mother. He kept reminding himself that he didn’t want to get too tangled up in their lives. Somewhere down the line Maggie might fall for someone here in town, and it wouldn’t be fair to the man in question if Oliver’s feelings toward Finn continued to blossom. It was very clear how Oliver felt about him—it was a very strong case of hero worship. Because Oliver was fatherless, Finn knew it was very possible Oliver had sought him out as a father figure.
Finn let out a sigh. The last thing he ever wanted to do was hurt Oliver. In some ways he reminded Finn of himself as a kid. Funny. Wise. And incredibly vulnerable. Finn could sense a lot behind Oliver’s eyes.
For today he wasn’t going to worry about building a little bit of a protective fire wall between them. Today was all about providing a wonderful flying experience for Oliver.
Finn O’Rourke didn’t renege on promises. Especially not to six-year-old boys who made him feel as if he’d hung the sun, the stars and the moon.
Finn felt almost as excited as Oliver as he arrived at the airport hangar. He had arisen early this morning, bursting with enthusiasm about taking Oliver on a flying adventure. He stood outside and gazed out over Kachemak Bay. He couldn’t have asked for better flying weather if he’d put in a special order for it.
As soon as he saw Oliver and Maggie walking toward him, Finn felt adrenaline racing through his veins. It was always like this before he flew—excitement pulsing through his body. It was a rush, pure and simple. The thrill of a lifetime.
Finn knew the moment Oliver saw him standing in the airport hangar. He started running toward him at breakneck speed, leaving Maggie in the dust.
“Welcome to O’Rourke Charters. Thanks for choosing to fly with us today, Oliver.” Finn gestured toward the plane. “Please step inside and make yourself comfortable.”
“Awesome!” Oliver practically tripped over himself making his way to Finn’s side.
Finn placed his hand on Oliver’s shoulder. “I think you’re forgetting something,” Finn said, jutting his chin in Maggie’s direction. Finn could read Maggie’s face like a book. She was fretting over her decision to let Oliver fly with him.
“’Bye, Mom,” Oliver said, rushing toward Maggie and hugging her tightly around the waist. “Thanks for letting me do this.”
Maggie’s expression instantly transformed. She was smiling down at Oliver with an expression of joy etched on her face. Oliver’s happiness was contagious.
“Be safe up there,” she called out to them.
“Always,” Finn said with a wave before helping Oliver into the plane. Oliver’s eyes widened once he realized his seat was right in the cockpit next to Finn’s seat. Once Finn was seated in the cockpit, he set Oliver up with a headset so they could talk over the roar of the plane.
“Up to the wild blue yonder,” Finn called out as he worked the controls and began to ascend into the sky.
Oliver repeated Finn’s words, reminding him of the way he and Declan had always recited those same words—their grandfather’s mantra.
Once they were up in the air at a decent altitude, Finn began pointing out landmarks.
“This is my grandfather’s plane,” Finn explained. “I fixed it up a few months ago so it runs perfectly. It’s called the Killian after him. He taught both Finn and me to fly on this plane.”
“Wow. It must be old,” Oliver said.
Finn let out a throaty laugh. “It is. We don’t fly any customers in this plane. We reserve it for very special people.”
“Like me?” Oliver asked, his grin threatening to split his face wide open.
“Exactly like you, Oliver.” Finn turned toward Oliver. There was something about this kid that endeared him to Finn. He was curious and sweet and he had a zest for life unlike anyone else. Finn cared about Oliver in a way he couldn’t even explain to himself. The kid brought up feelings inside him he’d never felt before. He could safely say he would take a bullet for Oliver.
“Look out the window! Do you see those trees covered with snow? That’s Nottingham Woods.”
“It looks so small from up here. Jasper said it was huge!” Oliver said, wrinkling his nose as he peered out the window. “They don’t really look like trees.”