There was no way he could risk subjecting Maggie to any more hurt. He didn’t trust himself not to mess everything up. What if he did something to hurt them? What if he destroyed them the same way he had torn apart his own family? What if he did worse damage than Sam had done?
How could he risk it? Maggie and Oliver had already been through so much. Way more than he had ever imagined or could even bear to think about. Finn felt sick to his stomach. By kissing Maggie, he may have led her to believe a relationship was possible between them when he knew it wasn’t. He should have just left well enough alone and let Maggie develop something with Hank. A man like Hank wouldn’t let Maggie down in the clutch. With one impulsive kiss he had complicated things. His timing couldn’t have been worse. They were on the cusp of the grand opening for Keepsakes. His future as a co-owner of O’Rourke Charters was just within reach. It was the one dream he’d allowed himself to hold on to through the years.
Any hopes of being with Maggie and Oliver weren’t realistic. One way or another, he feared he was going to hurt them. And the very thought of doing so made him feel like the worst person in the world.
* * *
Maggie felt as excited as she had always felt as a kid on Christmas morning. She was going caroling with her choir group and Finn had been invited to come along with them. The group was in dire need of altos. Maggie had to laugh. Although Finn loved to sing, he tended to sing off-key. It didn’t matter, she thought. Caroling was about spreading Christmas cheer and goodwill. It was all about heart. Finn had plenty of it. And he sang with unbridled enthusiasm.
At seven o’clock sharp the carolers met on the town green. They were all dressed in old-fashioned burgundy cloaks and the women wore fur hand muffs. Snow was gently falling and there was a frost in the air.
“Where’s Finn?” Oliver asked, looking around him.
Maggie frowned. Finn should have been here by now. “I don’t know, love. Maybe he’s going to join us or something came up with O’Rourke Charters.” She made a face at Oliver. “You know he wouldn’t miss this unless it was something important.”
Maggie checked her phone. There were no messages from Finn. She’d been with him a few hours earlier at the shop. He’d been a little quiet, but when she had reminded him about the caroling event, he’d been on board with it. Where could he be?
They went caroling door-to-door, singing Christmas hymns and spreading the joy of the season as they walked around town. Despite her disappointment about Finn, Maggie had a fantastic time. It was a great opportunity to bond with her fellow choral singers and the residents of Love. Having Oliver by her side had provided a good opportunity to show her son the real heart of Love, Alaska.
As the event ended, a large number of the carolers headed over to the Moose Café. Much to Oliver’s delight, Maggie decided to join the group. Once they entered, Maggie immediately spotted Finn. While Oliver was distracted by a few of his school friends, Maggie made a beeline over to him.
“Finn! What happened to you? We were expecting you to go caroling with us.”
Finn raked his hand through his hair. He seemed to be looking everywhere but in her direction. “Hey, Maggie. I’m sorry. I had to do some paperwork for O’Rourke Charters. There’s lots to do before I become Declan’s partner.”
“We had a good time,” Maggie said, not asking Finn why he hadn’t bothered to call her.
“That’s good,” he said in a clipped tone.
“Something’s wrong,” Maggie said. “What is it?” She knew Finn like the back of her hand. The expression on his face seemed distant. Something was off.
“Can we go outside for a minute?” Finn asked, his features creased with worry.
“Of course,” Maggie said, following after Finn as he took the lead and headed outside.
With snowflakes swirling all around them, Finn began to speak.
“I don’t want to hurt you, Maggie.”
“W-what are you talking about?” she asked. Her mouth suddenly felt as dry as sandpaper.
“Us. That kiss we shared at the winter carnival. It should never have happened.” He tapped his fingers against his chest. “It was all my fault for allowing it to happen. We could ruin a really good friendship. For me, it’s not a risk I want to take.”
Maggie felt a bit stunned. All she could do was nod. She had been hoping their kiss meant Finn had changed his mind about being in a relationship. That, combined with his clear affection for Oliver, had allowed her to have hope.
Stupid, stupid, she chided herself. Finn hadn’t made her any promises. In this instance, a kiss had just been a kiss. Maggie didn’t dare allow Finn to see her disappointment. Or her heartbreak.
“I understand,” she murmured. Heat burned her cheeks. She’d been so foolish to believe Finn wanted something lasting with her. Hadn’t he told her over and over again he wasn’t interested in relationships? How could she have been so naive?
“We want different things,” Finn continued. “At some point down the road you’re going to want a father for Oliver. Who knows? It could be months from now or years. And I can’t blame you. He deserves one after everything he’s been through. And not just anyone. A great one. That can’t be me. I’m not—” He fumbled with his words and his voice trailed off.
Hurt flared through her. Sharing a kiss with Finn had felt like coming home. Why was it so easy for him to push her away? Oliver’s face flashed before her eyes. The way he felt about Finn was epic. He thought Finn was better and stronger than any superhero. His little heart was vulnerable. Finn was right. She couldn’t risk her son being burned. She knew he wouldn’t do it on purpose, but the fallout would still be the same. It was far better to end things before they even got started. She felt grateful Oliver hadn’t gotten his hopes up and thankful she hadn’t allowed Oliver to see how she felt about Finn. When it came to Finn, her son wore his heart on his sleeve.
“You’re right. We got a little carried away with the kiss. The bottom line is I need to focus on my future. Oliver’s future. My goals haven’t changed. My son needs stability, and perhaps down the line a father. As you said, that can’t be you.”
She saw something flicker in the depths of Finn’s green eyes. It looked a little bit like hurt, but she had to be mistaken. After all, Finn himself kept making the same point. He wasn’t built for the long haul.
“I’m sorry to be so blunt, Maggie. I know it might sound trite, but I never in a million years want to hurt you. Or Oliver.”