Finn shook off the maudlin emotions. Things were looking up for him. He needed to be positive.
“Nice to see you again after all these years, Maggie,” Hazel said in an enthusiastic tone. “Your uncle told us so much about you and Oliver over the years. He loved you very much.” She reached out and enveloped Maggie in a tight bear hug.
Maggie’s uncle Tobias had been a longtime resident of Love. He’d been an amiable man whose shop on Jarvis Street had always been popular. “Let her come up for air, Hazel,” Jasper barked. Hazel let Maggie go, before turning toward her husband and scowling at him.
“Welcome back to Love,” Jasper said in a booming voice. Maggie smiled at Jasper, which immediately lit up her face. With her delicate features, Maggie had a girl-next-door type of beauty.
Jasper turned his attention toward the little boy. “What’s your name, son?” he asked in a robust voice. Finn let out a low chuckle at the look on Oliver’s face. Much like everyone else who crossed paths with Jasper, Oliver seemed fascinated by his larger-than-life personality.
The boy looked up at Jasper with big eyes. “I’m Oliver.”
Jasper stuck out his hand. “Hello there, Oliver. I’m Jasper Prescott, the mayor of this town. Everyone calls me Jasper though.”
“Hi, Jasper.” Oliver stared, then frowned. “Hey! You kind of look like Santa Claus.”
Finn knew that Jasper—with his white hair, blue eyes and whiskers—had heard this a time or two. The town mayor threw his head back and roared with laughter. “I like your honesty, young man.” He winked at Oliver. “To tell you the truth, I sometimes feel like him. I do tend to spread a lot of cheer around this town.” He winked at him. “Especially during this time of year.”
Finn stifled an impulse to burst out laughing at Jasper’s comment as Hazel rolled her eyes and let out an indelicate snort. Jasper frowned at his wife, then turned back toward Oliver.
“Would you like to head over to my grandson’s café for some peppermint hot chocolate and s’mores?” Jasper asked, eyebrows twitching.
Oliver’s hazel eyes twinkled. “S’mores are my favorite!” he said with a squeal of glee. He turned toward his mother. “Can we please go?”
Maggie reached out and tweaked her son’s nose. “Of course we can. S’mores are my favorite too.”
Finn watched the interaction between mother and son. Their tight bond was evident. He looked away for a moment, casting his gaze at the fishing boats docked by the pier. The boats served as a distraction from the feelings bubbling up inside him. A wave of longing for his own mother washed over him in unrelenting waves. He’d lived without her for almost twenty years, but the pain of her loss still lingered. It still gutted him when he allowed himself to think about it.
He didn’t know why, but lately the memories had been coming at him fast and furiously. And the guilt he felt over her death never seemed to let up.
“Finn!” Hazel called out. “Would you like to join us?”
Finn turned his attention back toward the group. “I have a few things to do, but I’ll meet you over there in a little bit. Don’t worry about the luggage. I’ll bring it over to the Moose.”
“Thanks, Finn,” Maggie said with a nod of her head. “We really appreciate it.”
Finn didn’t say a word in response. He merely nodded his head. Something about seeing Maggie again after all these years made him feel tongue-tied. She was so polished and put together. There was a regal air about her, although she didn’t seem like a snob. She was miles away from the tomboy who’d run around with skinned knees and untied shoelaces. He doubted whether they would even have a single thing in common.
“We’ll see you later then,” Jasper said, clapping Finn on the back.
Hazel clapped her hands together. “Well then. What are we waiting for?” she asked, motioning for everyone to follow her down the pier. Finn watched as they all walked toward Jasper’s car. At one point Oliver turned back toward him and waved. The thoughtful gesture made Finn smile. He waved back at him, getting a kick out of the way the boy’s face lit up with happiness.
Finn was glad they were traveling by car. Even though the Moose Café wasn’t far, the ground was a bit slick from a recent snowfall. Maggie and Oliver weren’t even wearing boots, he thought with a chuckle. Something told him it wouldn’t take either of them long to figure out they were essential for Alaskan winters.
Once he was alone, his mind veered toward the pressing matter at hand—Tobias’s bequest in his will. It couldn’t have come at a better time. For weeks now he’d been in a financial bind. He’d needed to come up with a large amount of cash so he could buy into a partnership in O’Rourke Charters, his brother’s business. So far his part-time job at the docks hadn’t brought in much cash, and his hours spent working for O’Rourke Charters were few and far between. Living in a town recovering from a recession made finding a high-paying gig almost impossible. He was so close to achieving his dream of being his own boss. His financing had been approved, but for a lesser amount than he’d expected or needed.
Tobias had come to the rescue and left him a nice sum of money in his will. Although Tobias had placed a condition on receiving the funds, Finn couldn’t be more thrilled about it. He clenched his jaw. Finn wasn’t too sure how Maggie would feel about working side by side with him. Despite their past friendship, they hadn’t been close in twenty years. The situation could prove to be very awkward. He no longer knew Maggie well enough to predict her reaction.
Just as the group departed in Jasper’s car, another vehicle pulled up to the pier. It took only seconds for Finn to recognize it. He watched as his brother, Declan, got out and walked toward him. With his blond hair and movie-star good looks, Declan radiated charm. Until h
e’d married his wife, Annie, he’d been known around town as something of a ladies’ man. Now he was enjoying the white picket fence and impending fatherhood. Although he was happy for Declan, Finn couldn’t help but feel envious. That type of life wasn’t meant for him.
“How’d it go?” Declan asked in an overly casual voice.
“Fine. Like always,” Finn said in a curt voice. He didn’t know why it bothered him so much to have Declan constantly checking on him. His brother must trust him since he employed him as one of his pilots. Yet, time and again, he gave Finn the feeling he was constantly peering over his shoulder. As the older brother, it didn’t sit right with Finn. After all, for most of their young lives Declan had followed in his footsteps.
That was a long time ago, he reminded himself. Before he’d let Declan know he couldn’t count on him.
Declan rocked back on his heels. “That’s good,” he said, quirking his mouth. Finn knew well enough by his brother’s expression something was brewing. Declan was now shifting from one foot to another and clenching his teeth.