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Finn Rhodes Forever: Chapter 37

Olivia

“DOT’S GOT A SET OF LUNGS,” my dad commented from behind the counter as we watched her sing Bon Jovi’s ‘Living on a Prayer’ at the bar’s karaoke night.

I smiled as the bar patrons cheered her on. She didn’t even need the lyrics on the screen, she knew all the words.

“When I sell this place,” my dad continued, “I’m going to stipulate that the new owner needs to do at least four karaoke nights per year. They’re so fun.”

I grinned. When my parents were traveling last year, we didn’t do karaoke night. I had enough going on with training Sadie, ordering, inventory, and payroll. I hadn’t heard the end of it though. My dad loved karaoke night.

My dad gave me a side-long look. “You feeling okay about all of that?”

“About you selling the bar?” I arched a brow.

He nodded.

I thought about what my mom had said, and what Finn had said about how he only wanted to see me happy.

“Yeah,” I said, giving him a small smile. “I know you’ll pick the right person.”

“Good. You know I love you, right?”

I nodded, smiling wider. “Yep.” My throat was tight with emotion. “I love you, too.”

He pressed a quick kiss to my temple before walking away to introduce the next karaoke singer. A server dropped off a table’s order and I got to work mixing drinks.

My conversation with Finn resurfaced in my mind. I’d been replaying it over the past week, thinking about how different life might have been if we hadn’t kept secrets over the past decade. If he’d told me what my mom had said, if I told him that I missed him earlier… round and round I went, picturing different scenarios.

It broke my heart, hearing what my mom had said to Finn. I hadn’t talked to her since we got back from the hike. I didn’t know what I would say. She didn’t realize what she had done, but she had hurt Finn, helped him believe he wasn’t enough, and in the process, she had hurt me too.

In my mind, I saw Finn sitting by the fire, hair falling across his forehead, eyes shining in the firelight. He was so beautiful, it made my heart hurt.

My mouth hitched as I turned and glanced at the cartoon he had left on the bar for me tonight. I’d tucked it onto a shelf above the bar to keep it safe. Two birds holding hands with hearts swirling around their heads. This thing between us was becoming bigger than I had expected. Once I let go, once I let it grow out of my grasp, it was so easy between us. It felt meant to be.

I smiled to myself as I shook the cocktail shaker.

Finn was making me feel whole again.

Another person had been sneaking into my head lately—Cole. With Finn, I had been so certain things were the way I perceived them, but there had been another side to that story. A whole other person to factor in with their own experience, feelings, and baggage.

When I was a kid, Cole was younger than I was at present. When I was five, he was twenty-five. He was a kid with a kid. What if I lived my entire life without knowing him because of some stupid misunderstanding?

I kept hearing Finn’s voice saying how miserable Cole had seemed in Whistler. Maybe he regretted things with me and my mom.

Anxiety tightened in my chest but I breathed through it. I had to see for myself, or I might always regret it.

A woman about my age slipped onto the bar stool in front of me. Her long red hair was loose around her shoulders, and her tall, willowy frame made her navy blazer and dress shirt look like a magazine ad. She met my gaze with a tired expression.

“Hi,” I said, raising my eyebrows at her.

“I need booze,” she responded, leaning on her elbows, rubbing her temples. “All of that,” she added, referring to the liquor bottles stocked behind me.

I snorted. “Bad day?”

Her eyelashes fluttered as she frowned. “I have no idea. Long day, I guess.” She ordered an old-fashioned and I got to work. “I had an interview,” she added as I gathered ingredients. “For my dream job.” She winced and shook her head. “Sorry, I don’t talk to bartenders. I’m not that person.”

I laughed again and shrugged. “I don’t care. You can talk to me.”

This happened sometimes, people coming in alone to chat. Again, my mind flicked to Cole sitting alone in a bar, unloading his problems to the bartender. That joke that bartenders were a drunk’s therapist? It wasn’t a joke. I’d heard everyone in Queen’s Cove’s problems at some point.

“How’d the interview go?”

She leaned her chin on her palm. “No idea. I couldn’t read the interviewer at all.” She waved a hand over her face, making a blank expression. “He gave me nothing.”

I wrinkled my nose. “Bummer.” I slid her the drink.

“Yeah.” She held it up to me. “Thanks. Cheers.”

My eyes narrowed, studying her. I didn’t recognize her. “You’re not from here, right?”

She shook her head. “Vancouver. Well, a small town in Northern BC before that, but Vancouver for the last ten years.” She bit her lip. “I don’t know if I’m ready to go back to small-town life.”

I laughed to myself, thinking about all the stupid antics that went on in this town. “That’s fair. Queen’s Cove can be a lot.”

I glanced around the bar at Dot sitting at a table full of regulars, making them laugh with stories from her life. At my dad talking about sports with his friends at another table. I thought about Miri shrieking at the sky as the plane with the banner flew overhead.

“If you get the job, you should take it,” I told her with a shrug and a smile. “The people in this town are special. They’re weird,” I added and she laughed, “but they’re special. You might like it here.”

She watched me for a moment with a small smile. “Thanks. I’ll think about it.”


THE NEXT HOUR PASSED QUICKLY, and I stayed busy mixing drinks, keeping the bar clear, and chatting with regulars.

“Hi, sweetheart.”

My head whipped up from where I was restocking limes. Elizabeth leaned on the counter. The apples of her cheeks popped with her smile.

“Hi.” I swallowed, and my stomach clenched.

For years, I’d been dodging Elizabeth Rhodes. She’d ask if I wanted to get coffee to catch up and I’d shut her down. She’d compliment my hair or my outfit and I’d freeze her out. I had wanted nothing to do with Finn’s mom, who was so sweet and nice and warm. I’d admitted to Sadie once that it always felt like she held a candle for Finn and me, like she was waiting for us to get back together, and I couldn’t take the pressure.

“I won’t bother you.” Her hands came to her necklace as she took me in. Elizabeth had this funny way of looking at people like she was admiring them. It had always made me feel like shrinking into the background, but tonight I stood my ground. “I wanted to see if Finn was here.”

“He’s at the fire hall.”

“Oh.” She shrugged. “Okay, I’ll try to catch him tomorrow. Bye, honey.” She waved.

“Wait.”

She stopped and turned, eyebrows raised.

I chewed my lip. A strange, nervous energy flowed in my blood. “We have a new red,” I told her.

She blinked at me. “Oh.”

“Lambrusco. It’s sparkling, which is weird, but it’s good. My dad calls it trash wine, but it’s not. It’s good,” I repeated. “The bubbles are tiny. It’s fizzy and fun.”

She tilted her head, watching me with a funny smile like she thought I was cute but strange. She reminded me of Finn right now, amused and entertained by me.

For years when I ran into her, I always saw Finn’s impish, wicked smile, and I never wanted her to get her hopes up about me and Finn.

“You might like it.” I cleared my throat. “I’ll have a glass with you.”

She watched me for a long moment and I felt like I might crawl out of my skin under the intensity of her gaze, but she dropped her bag on a stool and hopped onto the one beside it.

“I’d love a glass, honey. You know I love a weird wine.”

I snorted. “Yeah. I do.”

“So,” Elizabeth said as I poured her a glass. “I can’t wait for Sadie’s baby shower.”

I burst out laughing and we smiled at each other. “It’ll be memorable, I’m sure.”

While karaoke continued, I hung out behind the bar, chatting with Elizabeth while we drank wine and I mixed drinks for other customers. It was nice, being able to chat openly with her, and for once, I didn’t mind that she was holding out for Finn and me.

Elizabeth checked the time. “I should get home. I have book club in two days and I haven’t even started the book.”

She told me the title of the book and some of the plot, and my jaw was on the floor.

“Hannah and I had a romance book club,” Elizabeth explained, “and then we merged with Miri and Don’s book club. It’s easier that way.”

An idea hit me and I narrowed my eyes at her. “Can anyone join?”

She brightened. “Absolutely. We’re meeting Sunday afternoon in Hannah’s bookstore.”

“Great.” My smile stretched wide as delight and mischief spread through my chest. “See you there.”


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