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“If you and your mom aren’t busy tomorrow you could swing by and meet Boomer. If you think it’s something you’d like to do, that is,” Finn said.

“Yes! Of course I would,” Oliver shouted, wrapping his arms around Finn’s waist and giving him a tight bear hug. Finn felt certain no one had ever showered him with such enthusiasm in his entire life.

Maggie shook her head as Finn received the hug of a lifetime. Finn could see the relief etched on her face. It made him feel like a million dollars to have been able to do something to soothe Oliver and to provide comfort to Maggie. It troubled him a little bit. Never in his life had he felt this way before. And he didn’t quite understand it. Why did it mean so much to him to be there for Maggie and Oliver?

He related to Oliver because of his own experience with grief as a child. In some way he felt as if he was uniquely qualified to help the boy navigate his way through his terrible loss and the newness of their life in Alaska. If things had been different, it would have been a privilege to be Oliver’s father.

He would have to settle for being Oliver’s best friend and ally.

* * *

Pink and purple streaks of color stretched across the horizon. The rugged mountains popped out at her, making Maggie feel as if she could simply reach out her hands and touch them. If Maggie was a painter this would be her muse—the magnificent Alaskan landscape.

“Oh, it’s a beautiful Alaskan morning,” Maggie said as she gazed out of her bedroom window. “God sure did create a masterpiece when He made Alaska,” she gushed. With each and every day, Maggie fell more in love with her surroundings.

Last night had been a pleasant evening in Hank’s company. Although he had been a true gentleman, Maggie knew they could never be more than friends. Hank was looking for a wife and she didn’t want to waste any more of his time. It wouldn’t be fair to allow him to pursue her when she knew how she felt.

She heard Oliver rumbling around in his bedroom. Although they were due at church service in an hour, Maggie suspected Oliver had arisen early due to his excitement over meeting Boomer today at Finn’s place. He had talked her ear off about it all afternoon and into the evening. She was fairly certain he had dreamed about it last night, she thought with a grin. That’s how it should be for little boys. Dogs and trains and pilots with sparkling green eyes and infectious smiles.

Her bedroom door burst open and Oliver stood in the doorway. “Is it time to go to Finn’s house yet?”

“Not yet. We have church service first,” Maggie reminded him. “Don’t you remember? I’m singing with the choral group.”

“Aw,” Oliver said in a loud voice.

Maggie didn’t say a word. She sent her son a look full of reproach.

“Okay, I’m going to go get dressed for church,” Oliver said in a chirpy voice. “I can’t wait to hear you sing.”

By the time they left the house half an hour later, both were dressed to impress. Maggie was wearing a cranberry-colored dress she had recently bought here in town. She had some high-heeled nude shoes she was going to slip on once they’d made it to the church. Navigating the snowy Alaskan weather dictated the use of boots. Oliver had put on his best pair of slacks and a dark blue sweater. She couldn’t get over how mature he looked all of a sudden. He’d grown by leaps and bounds during the last year.

Maggie enjoyed singing with the choir at church. Oliver sat in the front pew and clapped along to the music. Although they were invited to stick around after the service for a pancake breakfast, Oliver practically dragged her out of the church.

“Oliver, we need to go change out of our church clothes,” Maggie said.

“Why can’t we just wear what we have on?” he asked with a groan.

“You can’t play with Boomer in your Sunday best.”

Oliver grumbled all the way back to the house, then practically vaulted out of the car when they reached home. Maggie was certain she’d never seen her son move so fast. It was as if his feet were on fire. She quickly changed into a pair of jeans and an oatmeal-colored sweater. Oliver was waiting impatiently for her at the door, wearing a sweatshirt and a pair of dark jeans.

Maggie drove the truck to town, navigating the snow-packed roads with a measure of confidence she hadn’t felt when she’d first arrived in town. At moments like this Maggie wondered what Uncle Tobias might think of what she was doing. Hopefully, he would feel proud of his niece and the steps she had taken toward rebuilding her life.

As soon as the small, log-cabin house came into view on Swan Hollow Road, Maggie let out an admiring sigh. Finn’s house was lovely. It was rustic and cozy. The house was nestled in a wooded area with a clear view of Kachemak Bay. It seemed like the perfect setting for Finn.

Right after they drove up, Finn walked outside, accompanied by a sweet-faced dog with black-and-white fur. He had a fancy red collar around his neck with rhinestones on it. Maggie thought he looked adorable.

“Boomer!” Oliver called out as he jumped out of the truck. The medium-sized dog ran toward Oliver and jumped up on him, knocking him to the snow.

“Down, Boomer!” Finn ordered. “Sorry about that. He tends to wear his heart on his sleeve.”

“It’s okay. He’s just being friendly,” Oliver said. “I don’t mind.”

Boomer’s tail was wagging ferociously. Oliver threw his arms around Boomer and hugged him. He began to pat him in a loving manner. Maggie had the feeling Oliver would once again be asking for a dog of his own.

“We got a present for you, Boomer.” Oliver looked at Maggie. “Do you have it, Mom?”

“Sure thing,” Maggie said, digging in her purse. “Here it is. Make sure it’s okay with Finn t

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