“It’s actually a really big forest like Jasper said. When we were kids my brother and I used to go cave hunting with our friends, the Prescott brothers. And guess what? Your mom came, too, whenever she visited.”
“She did? Aw, man. I’ve never been in a cave,” Oliver said in an awestruck voice. “Will you take me sometime?”
Finn grinned. Oliver was a boy after his own heart. He would have asked the same thing when he was Oliver’s age. “If your mom says it’s all right, I sure can,” Finn said with a wink.
Finn steered the plane to the left, dipping it down low at an angle to give Oliver a thrill. Oliver let out a whoop of excitement. A few minutes later Finn spotted the glistening waters of Kachemak Bay down below. Patches of white reflected ice chunks on the surface. Finn loved looking down at the body of water. Its raw power was awe inspiring.
“Do you know what that is down below?” Finn asked.
“Kachemak Bay,” Oliver said without hesitation.
“You’re saying it perfectly. It takes most folks a while to learn the right way to pronounce it.”
“Mom taught me on the ride over,” Oliver said, his voice full of pride. Finn felt a little hitch in his heart at the sight of Maggie’s son sitting beside him in the plane. He must be a resilient kid to have lost his father not so long ago and still be able to greet the world with a smile and optimism. He prayed Oliver’s future wouldn’t be hampered by the loss of his father. He knew all too well how those wounds festered.
As Finn made a final loop around Love, he looked out across the landscape of the hometown he adored. For so long he’d denied the pull of this town and what it meant to him. He glanced over at Oliver. He was sitting quietly, gazing out over the horizon with a look of satisfaction etched on his features.
“We’re about to go into our descent and head back to the hangar,” Finn announced. Truthfully, he could hang out in the sky for hours, but he knew Maggie needed him at the store for a few hours. He wanted to check out her window display and slap some red paint on the sign outside the shop. In a few days, the shop would be ready for the grand opening.
After landing the plane, Finn led Oliver inside the airplane hangar. A quick glance at his watch showed he was still within the time frame he’d promised Maggie. They could have a quick snack then head over to the shop.
“Hey, Oliver. The
re’s a fridge out back. Why don’t you go grab a juice box or some chocolate milk? I’ve got some stashed back there.”
“Okay,” Oliver said in an agreeable voice before dashing off.
Declan was sitting at his desk poring over some paperwork. He swung his gaze up and focused on Finn.
“You’re pretty crazy about Oliver, huh?” Declan asked. His blue eyes were twinkling with interest.
“He’s a great kid,” he said in a curt voice. Declan wasn’t fooling him. He knew his brother was trying to stir something up about his feelings for Maggie and Oliver.
“You and Maggie seemed to have picked up right where you left off all those years ago. I remember the way the two of you were as thick as thieves.”
“We’re friends. You can tell Annie not to start planning a wedding shower,” he said in a dry voice.
“Why would she do that? Word around town is that Hank Jeffries is interested in Maggie.” Declan flashed him a smug look. “They’re going out on a date.”
Whoosh. Finn felt a jolt pass through him. Maggie hadn’t mentioned anything about Hank or going out on a date. It wasn’t as if she owed him that type of information, but Finn felt a little bit of a shock. He spent most days working side by side with Maggie. Why hadn’t she confided in him about Hank?
“Seems to me if you’re interested in Maggie you ought to speak up before she’s taken.” Although Declan tossed the words out casually, Finn knew his brother was trying to prod him into action.
“What part of not interested don’t you understand? We’re friends, just like in the old days.”
“You two are like peanut butter and jelly. You finish each other’s sentences. That’s how it was when I met Annie. For a while I resisted what it meant. Don’t be so stubborn, Finn. You’re blocking your blessings.”
“I’m not like you, Declan. Not everyone embraces marriage and kids with open arms. I knew at a young age I wasn’t going to get the white picket fence and the house full of kids.”
Declan frowned. “I understand, to an extent. Before I met Annie I had my doubts about happily-ever-after, but loving her helped me make peace with the past. I hope you see how it’s possible. I’m living proof.”
Just then Oliver came back into the room, juggling two small boxes of chocolate milk in one hand and some apple slices in the other. He grinned at Finn. “Look what I found. I got one for both of us.” He handed a chocolate milk to Finn.
“We’ll pick this conversation up later,” Declan said, shooting Finn a glance filled with meaning. He smiled at Oliver. “I’m glad you had a good time today, Oliver.”
“It was awesome,” Oliver said. “Finn’s the best pilot in all of Alaska.”
Finn threw his head back and laughed. It was nice to hear a vote of confidence from Oliver.