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“I—I think so.” A dazed expression was stamped on his face.

“What was your father doing here?” Maggie asked. Finn had told her about Colin’s disappearing act from his hometown. She couldn’t imagine what had brought him back after all this time.

“He came to set me free,” Finn said. A slow smile began to break out over his face.

Maggie wrinkled her nose. “I don’t understand.” She waved her hand at him. “Never mind. It’s none of my business.” She had promised herself to maintain a healthy emotional distance from Finn. It was the only way of protecting her heart from being smashed into pieces. She loved Finn, but she knew there was no hope of him loving her in return. Finn didn’t want the same things as she did. He’d made it painfully clear to her. And if nothing else, the past had taught her to guard her

heart wisely.

“Yes, it is, Maggie. Or at least I hope it is. I’m praying you care enough about me to make it your business.”

Maggie’s lips trembled. “I—I did care. I do care. But you made it pretty obvious you don’t want me to.” Don’t cry, she reminded herself. Be strong.

Finn took a few steps toward her, bridging the gap between them. Maggie sucked in a deep breath at his close proximity. It was dangerous for her equilibrium to be so close to Finn. Before she could take a step backward, he reached out and placed her face between his palms.

“Maggie, I love you,” he said. The expression on his face was heartfelt. Tears misted in his green eyes.

She let out a gasp. His words had almost made her knees buckle. “What did you say?” she asked, wondering if she’d misheard him. Hope soared within her heart.

He grinned at her, then dipped his head down to place a tender kiss on her lips. Being kissed by Finn was a sweet surprise. She had been under the belief such a kiss would never happen again.

“I am head over heels in love with you, Mags. I have been for a while, but I was so busy running from things that happened a long time ago I didn’t feel worthy of you and Oliver. I couldn’t risk causing any more pain. When you told me about Sam, it tore me up inside. I knew you’d already suffered so much.”

Maggie could read between the lines about Finn’s past. But she needed to hear it directly from his lips. If there was even a shot at them being together, she needed to understand so they could move forward. Not just for herself, but for Oliver as well.

Finn took a deep breath and began to tell Maggie about the night of his mother’s death and the guilt he had been carrying around for twenty years.

Maggie listened intently to every word. She tried to hold back the tide of tears, but they were soon streaming down her face. She cried for the little boy who had assumed ownership of something so devastating and life altering.

“Declan brought my dad here so he could help me understand things. We finally talked about the night of my mother’s death.” He shook his head, appearing incredulous. “After all of these years, we finally broke through the wall of silence and dealt with the facts. It wasn’t my fault, Maggie. And the truth is, it wasn’t my father’s fault either. It was an accident. And he’s suffered because of it ever since.”

“Oh, Finn,” Maggie cried out, dabbing at her eyes. “My heart breaks for what your family has endured. I’m so thankful you can put this to rest.”

“Me too. I don’t know how to put it into words, but my soul feels lighter.”

“God is good,” Maggie said. “It’s amazing, isn’t it?”

“For some reason, I always had God in my life. No matter how bad things were, I knew He always walked with me. It prevented me from giving in to total despair. It kept me putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward.”

“Oh, Finn. I love you so much. I love your strength and how you lead with love. Despite the pain you’ve been dealing with, you always treat others with so much grace. You’ve been courageous this whole time. And incredibly selfless.”

Finn ran his palm over her cheek. “Maggie, you make it so very easy to adore you. I can’t imagine a life without you and Oliver in it. And I know God sent you back here so we could fall in love. Just in time for Christmas.”

“Oh, Finn. This feels like a dream. I never thought God would bless me twice in a lifetime. I truly loved my husband, but our life together wasn’t very happy. For a long time I was angry at him, but I’ve come to realize his problems were so deep-rooted he couldn’t fix them. I feel so blessed to be loved by you and to love you in return.”

“I thought I would be walking by myself through life. For so long I didn’t think I deserved anything wonderful. I thought my mother’s death fell on my shoulders. I came from a family that didn’t discuss our pain. We never really talked about how my mother died. We were all just stumbling around trying to make sense of it and stuffing down the pain.”

Maggie nodded. “It was such a tragic loss. But it was an accident. None of us are perfect people, but that’s the beauty of being loved by God. His love is perfect, so we don’t need to be.”

“Yes. You’re right,” Finn said with a nod. “I think the grief for my mother led me to feel as if I was responsible. We lived in a house where things were left unspoken. My mother was the one who bridged those gaps and without her everything fell apart. A mother is truly the heart of a home. It’s made me realize how important it is not to keep secrets.”

Maggie grazed her hand across Finn’s cheek. “I’m so sorry you blamed yourself for all of these years.”

“I truly thought the blame was on my shoulders. And I believed if I told anyone, I’d lose everyone I cared about. So I stayed silent over the years. And it was slowly eating me up inside.”

“You make a great point about secrets. I’ve known for a long time now that keeping this secret about the circumstances of Sam’s death isn’t right. It’s weighing me down. In order to move forward I need to be honest about the past. And it might cause Oliver pain, but I have to find a way to tell him the truth. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but somewhere down the line I will.” She took a steadying breath. “I think he’s resilient enough to deal with it.”

“That’s why I reacted the way I did when you told me about Sam. I retreated. How could I risk hurting you and Oliver after finding out how badly you’d been wounded by Sam’s flaws? That was the reason I never wanted a family of my own. I didn’t trust myself not to royally mess everything up.”

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