A rapping noise echoed on the door. The sound of the doorknob rattling soon followed. Maggie felt her palms moisten with nervousness. It was hard to believe the moment had arrived. Keepsakes was about to open its doors.
“I think we have our first customers,” Finn drawled. He looked at his watch. “And ten minutes early no less.”
“Can I open the door?” Oliver asked.
“Why don’t we do it together?” Maggie suggested, placing the snow globe back in its box and tucking it away behind the counter. With a deep breath, she headed toward the door with Oliver by her side and pulled it wide open, letting out a shocked sound as she saw a line of people waiting for entry. In all of her wildest dreams, she’d never imagined so many people showing up all at once.
“Welcome to Keepsakes,” Maggie said in a cheerful voice.
“Thanks for coming,” Oliver chirped, a big smile plastered on his face.
Excitement hummed and pulsed in the air as the townsfolk poured through the doors of Keepsakes. A little bell jangled every time a customer walked in. The smell of peppermint wafted in the air thanks to an essential oils diffuser. They had set up a little sidebar table with eggnog and apple cider doughnuts. Every customer was given a raffle ticket for a chance to win holiday prizes. A festive vibe radiated in the shop.
Hope floated in the air around them. She prayed her efforts to bring Keepsakes back to life would make Uncle Tobias proud.
Maggie greeted each and every customer. She felt very grateful for the bustling crowd. Finn was working the register and using his charm to sell additional items to customers once they were at the counter, checking out. Despite what had transpired between them the other night, they were working together to ensure the success of the grand opening.
At Finn’s suggestion, Maggie had framed a black-and-white photo of Uncle Tobias and hung it in a prominent place on the wall behind the cash register. It brought tears to her eyes to acknowledge how her uncle’s kindness and generosity had affected so many lives. Maggie couldn’t count the number of townsfolk who had approached her and recounted heartwarming stories about him.
With only an hour to go until the shop closed, a tall, good-looking man with gray-blue eyes walked in and a hush fell over the store. Maggie frowned as she looked around her. Hazel’s jaw was practically on the floor. People were whispering and talking behind their hands. She swung her gaze to Finn. A myriad of expressions crossed his face—shock, recognition, joy.
Suddenly it hit Maggie like a ton of bricks. Although twenty years had passed since she’d last seen him, she felt fairly certain about the man’s identity.
It was Colin O’Rourke, Finn’s absentee father.
* * *
When Finn swung his gaze up from the cash register and spotted his father walking through the doorway, it felt as if he was having an out-of-body experience. He blinked once, then twice. He hadn’t been mistaken. Colin O’Rourke had finally returned to Love, Alaska. The years had been kind to his dad. He was still a man who could turn heads by walking into a room.
Finn stepped from behind the cash register. In a few easy strides, he’d managed to intercept his father. They were the same height, Finn realized with surprise. For some reason, he always thought of his father from a child’s vantage point. Taller. Stronger. Bigger.
“W-what are you doing here?” he asked in a low voice. Even though he wanted to kick his father out on his ear, he didn’t want to do anything to hurt sales or ruin the grand opening of Keepsakes. Maggie had worked tirelessly to pull this off. So far, they were knocking it out of the park.
Out of nowhere, Declan appeared at his father’s side. “He’s here for you, Finn.”
Finn felt a stab of betrayal as he locked gazes with Declan. He’d known his father was going to show up here today! And he’d allowed Finn to be blindsided. He couldn’t remember ever feeling so disappointed in his brother.
Finn swung his gaze around the store. Maggie was looking at him with wide eyes. He quickly walked over to her. “I need a few minutes. Can you man the cash register?”
She bobbed her head. “Of course. Take as much time as you need.”
He made his way back to his father and brother. “We can’t do this here. Let’s go in the back room.” Without waiting for an answer, Finn strode toward the back of the store and down a small hallway. He jerked open the office door and stormed inside, followed by Colin and Declan.
He felt as if steam was coming out of his ears. This was Maggie’s grand opening. It wasn’t the time or place for his father to show up out of the blue.
He scowled at his brother. “Declan! What did you do?” His question came out like a ferocious roar.
“I did what needed to be done,” Declan said, his expression unapologetic. “I reached out to him.”
“Son, we need to talk and it needed to be face-to-face. Man-to-man. I’m not leaving until we air things out.” Colin’s voice was firm, brooking no argument.
Finn let out a bitter-sounding chuckle. “Now? After all this time?”
“You’re right,” Colin said, shaking his head. “We’re way overdue. And I apologize. To both of you. I bailed on our family. There’s no excuse for the things I’ve done. Back then I didn’t have the tools to talk openly to you about your mother’s death.” He winced. “Honestly, I’m not sure I do now.”
Anger rose up inside Finn. “You’ve been gone in one way or another ever since then.”
“Finn, I know there’s no excuse, but my heart was broken. I’m not strong like you and Declan. And to make matters worse, it was my fault.” Agony rang out in his voice. “She was my best friend. The very best of me. And when she left us, I crumbled. I lost sight of everything I held dear.”