“It was me. All me. I put the bullets in the shotgun. When I was home alone I did some shooting practice in the backyard even though I knew we weren’t supposed to touch the shotgun without adult supervision. I replaced the gun right where I’d found it, but I didn’t empty the shells.” Finn couldn’t bear to look at his brother. He didn’t want to see the look of disgust on his face.
Declan let out a blast of air. “And you’ve been carrying this around on your shoulders for twenty years? Blaming yourself?”
“How could I not? I knew what I’d done, but I didn’t tell anyone. And Dad took the blame for it. He took off and stayed gone. He even served a prison sentence after running on the wrong side of the law. If you ask me, Gramps died from a broken heart. He couldn’t take all of those losses.”
Declan met his gaze head-on. “That’s nonsense. He died of emphysema. He’d been dealing with it for years.”
“The facts don’t lie. I was the one who put the bullets in the rifle. That afternoon I was home alone...ten years old and eager to try something I knew was forbidden. We were taught to always empty the shotgun. I didn’t do that.”
“And so what if you did? You were ten years old, Finn. A child! I was eight. It could easily have been me who played around with the shotgun.”
Finn shook his head. A part of him knew Declan was right, but another part of him still couldn’t let himself off the hook.
“But it wasn’t you who did it! It was me!” Finn exploded.
Declan shook his head. “Finn, you’ve got to find a way to put this to rest once and for all. You’re giving up your future! I’m not going to let you do this to yourself. Do you hear me? I won’t allow you to sabotage your happiness.”
Finn watched as Declan stormed away from him and out of his house. He loved his brother for trying to lift him up, but there was still so much resting on his heart. It felt as if someone had placed a heavy anchor on his chest. Try as he might, Finn still didn’t think he was wort
hy of being with a woman like Maggie.
A feeling of euphoria seized Maggie as she stood outside Keepsakes and looked up at the beautiful sign. A few days ago Finn had painted it a brilliant red against a backdrop of white. “I hope we’ve made you proud, Uncle Tobias,” Maggie murmured as she scanned the display windows. Everything looked so festive and beautiful.
After feeling down in the dumps for several days about Finn, Maggie had convinced herself to snap out of it. As Oliver’s mother, she couldn’t allow herself to feel disheartened for too long. And she certainly wasn’t going to allow Oliver to see her mope around like a wounded bird. She was going to keep her chin up and keep moving forward. If there was any awkwardness between her and Finn, Oliver would be the one to suffer for it. She was determined to treat Finn with nothing but kindness and friendship.
When she walked back inside the shop, Finn and Oliver were playing a game of checkers. She had to smile at the sight of them. They were strong competitors. Neither one wanted to lose the match to the other. Despite what had gone down between her and Finn, she didn’t want anything to change for Oliver. Finn was still a very good man. So it was best to stuff down her heartache and act like a grown-up.
Maggie looked at her watch. “We’re half an hour away from launch.”
Finn said something in a low voice to Oliver, who quickly began to put away the game. As Oliver tidied up, Finn walked over to the front counter and pulled something from the shelves underneath.
“I have something for you,” Finn said, holding out a gaily wrapped present. His expression was sheepish.
“What? Is this for me?” Maggie asked. She felt a little bit awkward about accepting a gift from Finn after things had fizzled out between them.
Finn nodded and pushed the gift toward her. “Today’s a big day. I’m happy for you, Maggie. It’s been a pleasure working side by side with you to get the shop up and running. Tobias would be over the moon.”
“Should I open it now?” she asked.
“Go for it,” Finn said with a grin.
Maggie began unwrapping the gift, marveling at Finn’s mastery of gift wrapping. Once she’d ripped away the paper, Maggie took off the top from the square box. The moment she laid eyes on the rounded glass orb, she let out a squeal.
“Oh, Finn. It’s magnificent,” she said. She pulled the snow globe out of the box. It was a beautiful winter scene of a skating party at a lake. She shook the snow globe, admiring the delicate flakes that floated down on the scene.
“I could tell by the way you’ve been admiring the snow globes here in the store they were something you really admired. I also knew it wasn’t something you would buy for yourself. You always think of others first.”
“Do you like it, Mom?” Oliver asked. “Finn ordered it all the way from Montana.”
Maggie reached down and tweaked Oliver’s nose. “I don’t just like it. I love it.” She met Finn’s gaze. “I’ll treasure it forever.”
The magnitude of Finn’s gift lifted Maggie up to the stratosphere. Only Finn could have figured out her lifelong love of snow globes. Only Finn would have had the foresight to order her such a meaningful gift and present it to her on such a special day.
As they locked gazes, a buzz of electricity passed between them. Awareness flared in the air. She didn’t know what else to say without sounding sappy. Maggie hoped she wasn’t wearing her heart on her sleeve, because at this moment the love she felt for Finn threatened to burst out of her heart.
She loved him. And she couldn’t imagine not loving him. Not ever. Even though she knew they couldn’t be together, that knowledge did nothing to change the way she felt.