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o give it to him.” She handed Oliver a bone wrapped up in a big red bow.

“Thanks, guys. He’ll love it.” He waved them toward the house. “Why don’t we go inside and you can give Boomer the bone?”

Finn ushered Maggie and Oliver inside his home. The smell of pine wafted in the air. Another smell assailed her senses. It smelled like freshly baked cookies.

“Your house is lovely, Finn,” Maggie remarked, looking around her at the sparsely decorated home.

“Thanks. I’m renting it, but I’m hoping to buy it from the owner. I’m crossing my fingers it all works out when I become co-owner of O’Rourke Charters. I’ll be making a full-time income then and I can qualify for a mortgage.”

Maggie’s heart warmed at the possibility of Finn finally staking roots in Love. For so long he had been running away from making his hometown his permanent home. Surely this was a sign of growth and change, Maggie thought.

“Excellent,” she said. “Inheriting Uncle Tobias’s house has allowed us to own our first home. We were always renters. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Finn clapped his hands together. “Hey, can I offer either of you something to drink? Hot chocolate? Tea? Cider? I have some cookies in the kitchen. They just came out of the oven.”

“Mmm. They smell good,” Oliver said, following Finn toward the kitchen.

“Aren’t you full of surprises?” Maggie murmured as she spotted several racks of cookies sitting on the stove.

“I like baking,” Finn said with a shrug. “Especially Christmas cookies. Most of these are for the winter carnival tomorrow night. Help yourselves though. I made more than enough.”

Maggie reached over and grabbed a gingerbread cookie dusted with sprinkles. She took a bite and let out a sound of appreciation. “Hey, you’re good at this, O’Rourke. This is delicious.”

“Finn is good at everything,” Oliver crowed, biting into a cookie.

Finn tousled his head and said, “Thanks, buddy.”

“I guess I better pick up some snow pants for us so we can go to the winter carnival,” Maggie said, thankful Finn had mentioned the event. With everything going on with the shop, Maggie had completely forgotten all about it.

As Maggie sipped a cup of green tea and watched the interplay between Oliver, Finn and Boomer, she couldn’t help but wonder about Finn’s determination to stay single and unattached. This house seemed perfect for a family. It was way too big for one person, and Finn seemed to enjoy being with people. He wasn’t exactly a loner.

Finn O’Rourke was an enigma. The more she thought she knew the man, the more she realized there were many aspects of him she might never be able to fully understand.

* * *

Having company over at his house wasn’t something Finn was used to. He hadn’t lived here very long, but lately the place had begun to feel like home. Inspired by Maggie and Oliver’s Christmas tree, he’d even put up one of his own—a lovely balsam fir that towered over him. He still needed to buy a few more pieces of furniture. At the moment his style was minimalist. But, considering where he’d been little more than a year ago, his current situation represented major progress.

There was something so comfortable about having Maggie and Oliver hanging out with him at his house. It felt like family had stopped by. Conversation flowed easily. Finn didn’t feel he had to do anything special to entertain them. Oliver was enamored with Boomer. And Boomer seemed to have fallen in love with Oliver as soon as he gave him the juicy bone.

“I think it’s time I took Boomer for a walk. Want to come along, Oliver?” Finn asked.

“Sure thing,” Oliver said, jumping up from his seat.

Finn hoped Maggie wouldn’t offer to come along on the walk. Although he always enjoyed being around her, there were some things he needed to set straight with Oliver. And he thought it might be best if she wasn’t around.

“I think I’ll stay here and read the paper. Grace has an interesting article in here about making an Alaska bucket list,” Maggie said, her nose buried in the local gazette.

Finn led Oliver out through the back door. He handed him Boomer’s leash and began walking toward the woods.

In his excitement, Boomer was pulling at his leash.

“Don’t let him lead you, Oliver. Just tug sharply on the leash to get him to walk beside you. If you let him get away with it, he’ll try to do it every time he’s taken for a walk.”

Oliver listened intently and followed Finn’s instructions. Within a matter of minutes, he’d gotten Boomer under control.

“Hey, buddy. I think we need to talk,” Finn said, trying to make his voice sound casual.

Oliver looked up at him with big eyes. “Did I do something wrong?”

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