“Is your mom still around?” Finn asked.
“Yeah, she’s living out in Las Vegas with a new husband. We’re not close. There’s no getting around it. My childhood was a train wreck.”
“That’s too bad,” Finn said. “I guess both of us were going through a lot of dysfunction at the same time.”
She squeezed his hand tightly. “I feel bad complaining when you lost so much.”
Finn looked at her. A bittersweet expression was etched on his face. “Pain is pain, Maggie. It’s hard to compare battle wounds. And you don’t have to feel bad about anything. It’s all right to feel whatever you’re feeling.”
“On a good day my feelings are all over the place,” Maggie admitted.
“That’s what I admire most about you. Your ability to be open and honest. So many people have a filter. You’re genuine, Mags. You always have been.”
Maggie felt her cheeks flush at Finn’s compliment. Their faces were so close together and Finn was gazing into her eyes with such a tender look. Maggie looked up at him, wondering if she was misinterpreting what was about to happen next. Unless she was imagining things, Maggie was fairly certain she was about to kissed by Finn O’Rourke.
Finn looked into Maggie’s eyes and knew he was mere seconds away from kissing her. He tried his best to resist, knowing he was going against every vow he’d made about getting romantically involved with Maggie. He wasn’t any good for her. She deserved someone solid. A father for Oliver. A man who could pledge eternity to her. He was filled with so much fear and anxiety about hurting the people he cared about. And if he was being honest with himself, he didn’t trust himself to go the distance. In so many ways, Finn didn’t fit the bill of what Maggie needed or wanted.
But in this moment everything stilled and hushed
between them. It was just the two of them—him and his beautiful, sweet Mags. She was radiant in every single way imaginable. He reached out and stroked the line of her jaw with his fingers. She was so incredibly lovely. With her creamy skin and vivid eyes, Maggie was a knockout. Those same eyes were looking at him now with a mixture of anticipation and wonder.
“Maggie, I’m not sure I have the right to kiss you, but if I’m being completely honest with you, there’s nothing I’d rather do at this moment.” His voice sounded raspy to his own ears. He wanted this more than he’d wanted anything in his entire life. That very thought worried him, but he stuffed the feeling down and focused on this interlude between him and Maggie. There was a lot to be said about living in the moment.
“I—I haven’t been kissed in a long time, but I’d very much like for you to kiss me.” Her voice was soft yet steady. It rang out with truth.
The raw honesty in Maggie’s words propelled Finn forward. He lowered his head, letting out a sigh as his lips touched Maggie’s. He placed his lips over hers in a tender, soaring kiss. She smelled like a mixture of the great outdoors and a light vanilla scent.
For Finn, this kiss was everything. It was friendship and romance and attraction. It was the ties binding the two of them together for decades. It represented new beginnings.
As the kiss ended, Finn knew with a deep certainty all kisses weren’t created equal. He had kissed enough women in his life to realize this was special. Powerful. Spectacular. Seconds ticked by during which their foreheads touched and neither said a word. He could hear the low sound of his breathing and see the rapid rise and fall of her chest. At the same time, he knew he’d just made a colossal mistake.
“Finn, what does this mean?” Maggie asked, her voice full of uncertainty. “For us? I don’t want to lose our friendship or put a strain on it.”
“I don’t know, but I do know I’m at my best when I’m with you, Maggie. I feel more like me than I ever do with anyone else,” Finn admitted. He didn’t know exactly how to put into words the way he was feeling. But he knew it felt right when Maggie was in his arms. She was rapidly becoming his best friend all over again. Finn cared so very much about her well-being. As a result, he couldn’t stuff down the niggling feelings of doubt roaring through him. He wanted to try with Maggie. He yearned to be the man who could make her and Oliver happy, but he worried about hurting both of them. If he harmed either one of them, he would never forgive himself.
Finn opened his mouth to tell Maggie his truth. Kissing her had been a mistake. It had been a selfish move on his part since he knew it couldn’t go anywhere. Maggie wasn’t the type of woman a man should trifle with.
“Hey, Mom! There you are!” Oliver’s chirpy voice interrupted them as he suddenly appeared in front of them. His cheeks were flushed with cold and his snow pants were damp. “I was looking for you everywhere.”
Maggie grinned at her son. “I think it’s time we headed home, Oliver. Your eyes are getting a little droopy and your cheeks are as red as a berry.” Finn jumped up and lent a hand to Maggie, pulling her to her feet. For a moment their eyes locked. Something crackled in the air between them.
“C’mon,” Oliver said, his voice full of fatigue. “I want to say goodbye to Aidan.”
As they walked back toward the concession stand where the residents were gathered, Finn’s mind was full of regrets. Even though kissing Maggie had been a moment of pure tenderness and connection, Finn couldn’t allow himself to believe in a happy ending.
Sharing this precious time with Maggie hadn’t changed a single thing. He still felt unworthy of a happily-ever-after.
* * *
Maggie had been fretting about the kiss she’d shared with Finn ever since the night of the winter carnival. She’d tried not to focus on it, but it felt like the elephant in the room whenever she and Finn were in the same area. She didn’t know if she was imagining it or not, but things felt slightly awkward. Maggie wasn’t used to kissing a man she wasn’t attached to romantically. Although the past few days had been filled with completing the final days of setup for Keepsakes, she was preoccupied by her conversation with Finn the other night. He had praised her for being open and honest. Forthright. It bothered her to think she was keeping secrets from him, especially when he had been so transparent about his mother’s accidental death.
Maggie couldn’t hold off any longer. She wanted to tell Finn the truth about the circumstances of Sam’s death. At this point, it felt like a lie to withhold such information. It was weighing her down like an anchor. Finn was her best friend here in town. It would feel therapeutic to get it off her chest.
Lord, please help me get the words right. I don’t want Finn to think I’ve lied to him about Sam. And I pray he’ll understand why I kept silent. I know Finn’s heart—he’s a strong, good man.
Maggie cooked that evening for her, Finn and Oliver. It was her specialty—spaghetti Bolognese with garlic bread and salad. Oliver had put both her and Finn on the spot by begging Finn to come for dinner. Maggie didn’t mind since she’d been searching for an opportunity to have a private conversation with Finn. After tucking her son into bed, she stood at the sink and washed the dinner dishes, with Finn drying and putting them back on the shelves.