Something told Maggie that Oliver was developing a pretty strong case of hero worship. He seemed to think everything about Finn was cool. Finn had sealed the deal by offering to take Oliver up in one of his planes. She felt a twinge of envy. Maggie couldn’t think of the last time Oliver thought she was the bee’s knees.
“I’m going to go outside and warm up the car so it’s not freezing inside. I’ll meet you guys out front in a few minutes,” Finn said. He held up his palm and Oliver high-fived him.
Maggie knew she should feel grateful for Finn’s offer to drive them to their new house rather than worrying about Oliver’s reaction to him. After all, Finn had already done his job by flying them to Love from Anchorage. She shivered as she watched her son’s gaze trailing after Finn. A fatherless boy would look for father figures anywhere and everywhere. She didn’t want Oliver to get any ideas about her childhood pal being his new daddy.
Finn. He’d sure grown up into an extremely good-looking man. She imagined he drew lots of interest from the females in town. Not that she was looking! Maggie had no interest in romance, which was ironic considering she was smack in the center of Operation Love territory. She was well aware of the program since she’d read the newspaper articles and seen the television shows highlighting Mayor Jasper Prescott’s matchmaking campaign.
Love, Alaska, was Maggie’s shot at redemption. God had blessed her by making her a mother. She owed Oliver a stable, loving home. It was her responsibility. Although her childhood buddy seemed like a nice guy, Maggie had no intention of getting fooled again by good looks and a smile. Romance wasn’t on her agenda.
Love had certainly made a fool of her in the past. It had cost Maggie so very much. Her peace of mind. Dignity. Her reputation. Sam had betrayed her and Oliver. Now, she was solely focused on her son and creating a safe, emotionally healthy world for him. His needs came first. Oliver might want a father, but Maggie definitely didn’t want a husband. She was determined to raise her son by herself and be both mother and father to him.
Maggie needed to keep her eyes on the prize. She had to focus on getting the shop ready for the grand opening and find a sitter for Oliver for the hours he wasn’t in school. A whole new world was opening up for them. Maggie wasn’t going to squander these opportunities.
As he walked toward his truck Finn let the frigid blast of wintry air wash over him. He’d come outside so he could warm up the car for Maggie and Oliver and place the booster seat inside his truck, but it also provided him with him a few minutes by himself so he could reel in his thoughts.
Although the situation with Agnes was terrible for Maggie, he couldn’t stop thinking about the timing. Tobias’s will stipulated that he needed to help Maggie set up Keepsakes and provide assistance with the grand opening. Perhaps part of helping Maggie could be watching Oliver after school let out so he wouldn’t be underfoot while she set up shop. He could be the part-time sitter.
Finn wasn’t a childcare expert by any means, but he had ties to the community, a way with kids and a fun-loving personality. And for the next few weeks he could devote himself to the position, until such time as he could collect his inheritance from Tobias. While Oliver was in school he could help Maggie with setting up the store and ordering any inventory she needed, as well as doing any heavy lifting. By the time four weeks elapsed, Agnes could very well be on the mend.
It would be win-win for everyone.
The truck had considerably warmed up by the time Finn spotted Maggie and Oliver standing in the doorway of the Moose Café. Maggie held a large shopping bag in her hands. He imagined it contained the meals Hazel had prepared for the two of them. Finn stepped down from the driver’s seat and walked Oliver and Maggie across the street to his truck. He helped Oliver step up into the cab, then took the bag from Maggie before lending her his hand, which felt so small in his larger one.
Once she was buckled in, Finn closed the door and made his way over to the driver’s seat. As Finn began to drive down Jarvis Street, he found himself pointing out local places of interest. He could hear pride ringing out in his own voice.
“The sheriff’s office is right across from the Moose Café,” Finn said, gesturing toward the building. It had been festively decorated with wreaths and red ribbons.
“Is there really a sheriff who works there?” Oliver asked in an awestruck tone.
Finn nodded. “Of course there is. His name is Boone Prescott. He’s Cameron’s brother. And he happens to be a friend of mine in case you’d like to meet him.”
“Whoa. I’ve never met a real-life sheriff before,” Oliver said in a gushing tone. “I’ve only seen them in movies. I hope when I meet him he shows me his shiny gold badge.”
Finn chuckled, enjoying seeing things through Oliver’s fresh eyes. Love was a wonderful town, full of heart and connections and fortitude. The townsfolk had pluck and grit. For many years he hadn’t appreciated his hometown. He’d been too busy trying to stuff down the painful aspects of his childhood. Running away and avoiding all the memories had been the easier path.
And in the process he’d also placed a wedge between himself and Declan. He wanted them to be close again, and they were slowly getting there.
“Oh, what a charming bookstore,” Maggie said, turning to gaze out of the window at the Bookworm shop. “The holiday decorations really make the store come to life.”
Finn nodded in agreement as he took a quick glance at the whimsical window display. Maisie had really gone overboard this year. Sugarplum fairies and dancing reindeer with glowing noses, as well as chubby snowmen and falling snowflakes. He wasn’t usually sappy about Christmas, but there was something about the decorations that brought out his sentimental side. Finn couldn’t help but think back on the wonderful holidays he’d spent with his family before the bottom had fallen out of their world.
His parents had always gone the extra mile to make sure they knew the true meaning of Christmas. The emphasis on the birth of Christ had been at the forefront, but there had always been surprises waiting for them under the Christmas tree—train sets and skateboards and dirt bikes. One year his father had gifted his mother with a toy poodle she’d named Pippin. Finn smiled at the memory of his mother squealing with joy.
“There’s Keepsakes,” Finn said, slowing down as they passed the boarded-up shop. It would have been odd if he hadn’t pointed it out. Truthfully, the shop had seen better days. Numerous townsfolk had deliberated over whether to fix up the exterior before Maggie arrived in town. In the end, it had been the general consensus that since Maggie was now the legal owner, only she could make the decision as to how Keepsakes should look.
He watched as a myriad of emotions crossed Maggie’s face. Finn reached out and patted her hand. “Don’t worry. All it needs is some spit and polish. You’ll get it done in no time at all.”
Although Maggie nodded in agreement, the look emanating from her eyes was full of trepidation. He wished there was something more he could say to make her feel confident about her new venture.
Finn continued to point out landmarks—the post office, the trading post, the newly opened hair salon, the toy store and the pawnshop. Finn slowed down as they approached the library.
“Right there is the Free Library of Love. My sister-in-law, Annie, works there as head librarian.” He glanced over at Maggie. “They have a great children’s section.”
“It’s beautiful,” Maggie said. “I can’t wait to explore this town at my leisure. There have been a lot of changes since I was last here.”
“As you may remember, it’s a small town,” Finn conceded. “But it’s full of treasures. I think you’ll be very content here once you settle in.”