“Everything okay?” Finn asked. “You seem a bit preoccupied. I hope you’re not worrying about the grand opening. We’re in great shape.”
Maggie shook her head. “It’s not the shop.” She bit her lip. “You’ve been so honest with me about your mother’s death. It’s made me feel a little bit ashamed.”
Finn raised an eyebrow. “Ashamed? Of what?”
“I haven’t been completely straightforward about my husband’s death.”
Finn frowned. His handsome features were creased in confusion. “What do you mean?”
Maggie took a deep breath. “He wasn’t the victim of a store robbery. The truth is he was holding it up for money.” Her voice quivered. “The store owner shot and killed him in self-defense.”
* * *
Finn’s jaw dropped. He stumbled for something to say in response to Maggie’s confession. His mind whirled with the reality of her situation. Not only was she a widowed single mother, but she had been traumatized by the extreme circumstances of her husband’s death. Her husband had single-handedly destroyed their family with his actions.
Finn’s heart began to pound like crazy in his chest.
Maggie wiped away a tear. “Sam lived a double life. He had gotten into trouble with the law from time to time over the years, but mostly for small things.” She let out a harsh-sounding laugh. “Not that it didn’t matter, but I had no idea he was robbing stores. He grew up in really abusive foster homes, so I think I made a lot of excuses for him. I can honestly say I didn’t see it coming.”
“When the police came to my door that night I was in utter shock. I kept thinking Sam was the victim of the robbery because it was the only thing I could fathom. Then it became agonizingly clear he was a very troubled man. One I’d been married to for seven years.”
Finn’s heart was breaking for her and Oliver. It must have rocked their world to its core to have been blindsided in such a shocking way. “Maggie, I’m so sorry you went through all of that. It must have been agonizing.”
“We went through a lot in the aftermath.” Maggie ducked her head. “People weren’t very nice.”
Finn gritted his teeth. “What did they do?”
“I lost my job. We got phone calls and harassing letters. Our landlord kicked us out. Even our church community turned their backs on us. Most of the parents of Oliver’s friends wouldn’t allow their children to have playdates with him. We lost everything all at once.”
Her voice faltered. “What I’ll never understand is why people were so cruel to us. Why they blamed us. We were victims too. We lost our lives.” Maggie’s voice was laced with ag
“It makes no sense as to why people choose to act in such a mean-spirited way. It’s the very opposite of the way we’re supposed to treat each other. I’ll never understand it, but I do know good people outweigh the bad in this world.” Finn deeply believed it. His faith taught him to do unto others and love one another.
“You’re right, Finn. That’s a good way to look at things,” Maggie said with a nod.
There was no doubt as to how much she and Oliver had suffered due to her ex-husband. Maggie had been terribly wounded by her husband’s actions and subsequent death. His heart bled for Maggie and Oliver. To suffer the condemnation of one’s community after such a tragedy was shocking. He stuffed down a desire to head to Boston and deal with those small-minded people who had hurt Maggie. He’d like to give them a piece of his mind and a dose of their own medicine.
He hated cruelty, especially toward a defenseless and grief-stricken mother and child. It was the very opposite of the way he wanted to live his life.
“Why were you afraid to come clean about it here in Love?” he asked, hating how Maggie had been so consumed with worry about her past. Finn prayed she would put all of it to rest so she could focus on her future.
“Because of all the judgment we endured. Coming here was about making a fresh start. I couldn’t risk losing the goodwill of the people here before we even stepped into town.”
“That would never happen,” Finn said, wanting Maggie to understand this town was different. It was far from perfect, but he knew without a shadow of a doubt the townsfolk would extend Maggie grace and brotherly love.
“I know that now, but at the time I didn’t. I could take it for me, but not for Oliver. He’s just a child. And God knows he’s innocent in all of this. Children shouldn’t suffer the sins of the father.” Her voice broke and she began to sob.
Finn placed an arm around Maggie and pulled her close. “He won’t, Maggie. Oliver is happy and thriving here in Love. You did the very best thing you could for him. You stepped out on a limb of faith and came back to Alaska. You seized an opportunity to make a better life for yourself and Oliver. Those are commendable things.”
A hint of a smile appeared on her face. “Thank you for saying so, Finn. I’m very grateful to be here in Alaska. I just felt a little funny about not coming clean with you. You’ve been so open and honest with me.”
“Maggie, you don’t owe the town or me an explanation of your past. If you wish to share that information, then so be it.”
“I’m grateful for your listening ears, Finn. And for accepting me, warts and all.”
As Finn drove home, his thoughts swirled with thoughts of Maggie and all she’d endured because of her ex-husband. It made his chest tighten painfully. And he knew with a sinking feeling in his gut that the information he’d learned tonight confirmed everything he felt about the possibility of building something with Maggie. It just wasn’t possible.