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Finn Rhodes Forever: Chapter 45


HE WAS right on my tail.

The wind whipped my hair and that version of myself who’d woken up got out of bed, wandered to the window, and smiled at the sky. I glanced over my shoulder and locked eyes with Finn. Whatever was on my face lit him up like a sparkler, and he beamed back at me. No smirk, no roguish grin, no smug smile. Just pure happiness.

A laugh burst out of me as he gained on me. My thighs burned, my eyes watered from the wind, and my cheeks ached from smiling. I was so fucking happy and light, riding bikes and racing Finn Rhodes down the street.

This felt like where I belonged. I whooshed past the entrance to the beach a hair in front of Finn and let my bike slow. My chest shook with laughter as I circled back.

“Beat you.” I was breathing hard, legs, back, and lungs burning.

He smiled openly at me. His cheeks flushed pink and my heart flipped over. “You did. Do me a favor and don’t gloat about it, okay?”

I scoffed. “Whatever.”

He laughed and I followed him through the path to the beach. We left our bikes at the edge of the sand.

Finn tilted his chin at the basket on my bike. “There’s a treat for you in there.”

I flipped it open. A beach blanket covered a bag of Cheezies, and I wiggled my eyebrows at him. “Thank you.”

His eyes gleamed. “Those are disgusting.”

“I know. I still love them.”

“I know.” He smiled and tilted his head to the beach. “Come on.”

We set out the blanket on the empty beach, unpacking the food and opening the drinks Finn had brought. The salt from the fries burst in my mouth and I hummed, surveying the ocean as the evening sun dipped low in the sky. I watched the sand soak up the tide from the waves crashing in and out. A light breeze pushed my hair back and I caught Finn studying me, like he was trying to remember this. My heart twisted.

“Happy?” he asked, leaning back on his elbow as he ate.

I nodded, inhaling the fresh air and letting it out slow. I took another bite of fish, sighing with pleasure at the crunchy deep-fried batter. “They gave us extra tartar sauce. How could I not be happy?”

He chuckled, and his pleased expression made my heart beat faster.

“Thank you,” I told him.

His gaze lifted to mine. “For what?”

“I’m having a good time with you.”

His eyes softened. “Me too, baby.”

I chewed my lip, glancing at him. “I reached out to Cole.”

“Oh, shit,” he said softly, eyebrows going up like he was impressed. “How’d that go?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. Weird. I left him a voicemail. I haven’t heard back from him.”

His gaze roamed my face and the corner of his mouth quirked up. “That took guts, Morgan. I’m proud of you.”

My face heated and I hid my smile.

He opened his mouth to say something before closing it.

“What?” I prompted.

“Just thinking about how I’m going to challenge you again.”

“You could find the flower before me.” I ate another fry.

He shook his head, eyes dancing. “I’d never do that to you.”

We watched each other. “I know.”

Something popped into my head, and my stomach twisted with worry. His expression turned serious, like he could see my emotions painted all over my face. I used to be good at hiding my emotions. I used to have the best resting bitch face in town, but over the summer, I seemed to have misplaced it. Or maybe Finn stole it. He could always read me like a book.

“I started job hunting,” I admitted. “For October.”

“Oh.” He picked up a fry but didn’t eat it. “Find anything?”

“The research center in Port Alberni has nothing, which is no surprise. They’re underfunded and because they’re underfunded, they’re becoming obsolete, which means they’re getting fewer grants.”

“Which means they’re becoming more underfunded,” Finn supplied, and I nodded.

The next words caught in my throat. “There are a few jobs in Port Hardy.”

Finn blinked before nodding. “Hmm.”

Port Hardy was on the northwest end of the island, a six-hour drive from Queen’s Cove. I wouldn’t be commuting back to town every night with that drive.

“And they have a few jobs that don’t require PhDs,” I continued, staring at the ocean. “Although they seem boring. Just lab work. Stuff I did in undergrad.”

He hummed again, understanding the underlying message. I didn’t want those jobs, and I didn’t want to move to Port Hardy.

“I’d move with you.” His careful gaze met mine.

“Your job.”

He watched me, still smiling. “I’m sure they have fires there.”

I chewed my lip to keep from smiling back at him before I let it go, let the smile lift on my face. “We’ll see.”

“Yep.” He nodded.

A twist of frustration hit me and I blinked. Queen’s Cove was my home, and I didn’t want to leave. Everyone else got their happy ending. Even if Finn came with me, I didn’t want to leave.

I thought about Finn’s brothers and my friends. Except for Emmett, they all owned their own businesses and made their own destiny. My forehead creased. It didn’t work like that for me. I couldn’t start my own research lab here in Queen’s Cove; half the field thought I was a quack on the hunt for something that went extinct. No one in their right mind would give me hundreds of thousands of dollars to lead studies. Not if I didn’t find the flower.

A slow, sinking feeling hit my stomach.

“Hey.” Finn’s hand brushed my arm. “We’re going to figure it out, okay?”

I nodded, not believing him. My gaze swung out to the water, reflecting the sun dipping lower in the sky. I didn’t want to feel like this, not here. Not on the date Finn had planned for us.

“We should move to the forest,” I said with a snort. “We could build our own cabin, drill a well for water, and pedal our bikes to keep the lights on.”

He cocked a grin at me. “Boil water for baths?”

“Too much work. We’d swim in the creek.”

“What about in the winter?”

“You’ll keep me warm.”

His smile lifted higher and he chuckled. The sound fizzed over my skin. The frustration from moments before popped like a bubble as I grinned back at him.

Glancing at Finn propped on his elbow, hair falling into his eyes, a muscle in my chest twinged and I realized something.

I didn’t want this summer to end.

We stayed on the beach, chatting and watching the water until the sky began to dim. We rode back to the bar at a comfortable pace, meandering down the streets.

“I don’t know why I didn’t get another bike years ago,” I admitted to Finn as we leaned them against the wall in the hallway inside the door of the bar.

“Now you don’t need to.”

He dropped a kiss on my cheek, too quick and fast for my liking, before tugging me upstairs.

I bit my lip in anticipation. When we reached the hallway between our apartments, he kept walking to the end and my expression turned confused. A ladder sat against the wall, and he dropped my hand to set it up below the roof hatch. After opening the hatch, he stepped down, helping me up as I climbed onto the roof.

When I saw the blanket spread out on the roof with a pile of throw pillows, I laughed.

“What’s this?” Across the sky, the sun was setting.

“Thought we’d watch the sunset.” He dusted his hands off and led me over to the blankets. “If you want.”

“I want.” I smiled at the sky, dusty purples and indigo blues.

We sat on the blanket, staring at the sky. Up here, we could hear the chatter from outside the bar, the light din of traffic, the laughter of people walking down Main Street. Our town was so full of life, full of people enjoying their lives.

A funny thought struck me and my heart clenched. How long had it been since I enjoyed my life like this? Without Finn, what would I be doing right now? Working at the bar or obsessing about my studies. Maybe camping by myself, eating packaged pasta and staring into the fire.

Finn had blown back into town and knocked all that aside. He showed me the moments that were worth living for.

“Come here,” Finn whispered, lying back against the pillows, corded, tattooed arm out and open for me. I tucked myself into his side, sighing as I relaxed into his warm, hard chest, eyes on the sky.

“You smell amazing.” My voice was quiet. His hand came to my hair, toying lightly, and he chuckled.

We watched the sky as the sun sank below the horizon. The sky darkened and tiny pinpricks of light appeared while I listened to Finn’s heartbeat against my ear. His chest rose and fell as my world narrowed to our little bubble—the soft brush of his t-shirt against my cheek, his warmth, the sounds from the street below, the tickle of his fingers in my hair. My hand on his flat stomach.

At one point, I lifted my head to look at him and he watched me back. We stared openly at each other, connected in a way I’d never felt before.

I lifted up on my elbow and kissed him.

He exhaled against me as my lips grazed his. The light scrape of his stubble against my chin sent sparks across my skin and as I deepened the kiss, he lifted me on top of him. His tongue slid against the seam of my mouth and I let him in.

He groaned against my mouth, stroking my tongue with his. The sound of pure pleasure hit me between my thighs, and beneath me, he hardened. I was breathless but I couldn’t stop kissing him. My hips tilted against his, and even through our clothes, his cock against my center flooded me with heat. The rhythm of his tongue against mine wound me higher, tighter. The way he moved in my mouth was like how his fingers moved between my legs, firm and unyielding, doling out pure pleasure at his pace, not mine.

“Tonight?” I whispered against his mouth in between kisses.

His eyes devoured me. He knew what I meant. “Not tonight.”

Frustration ached between my legs.

“Why not?” I breathed.

He pulled back to study me. The corner of his mouth twitched but his eyes burned hot and possessive. “I’m waiting until I think you love me.”

I searched his eyes, frozen. The words I wanted to say were like glitter in water. I could see them but when I reached for them, they slipped through my fingers.

I blinked, annoyed with myself. It shouldn’t be this hard. Some people said it all the time—to their parents, to their friends, to their kids and their pets—but lying on a blanket entangled with someone I’d known my whole life, someone who might know me better than any other person on the planet, I couldn’t say it.

A question appeared in my head, and my muscles tensed. If I said the words, would the chase be over for Finn?

My throat locked up and I swallowed.

“It’s okay.” Finn’s gaze was careful. His hand squeezed my thigh, draped across him. “I’m not going anywhere.”

The knots in my chest and throat eased and I nodded, shooting him a small smile. He winked at me and I relaxed more.

“Liv, I can’t be without you. Can’t you see that?” His eyes were so clear under the stars, and his voice was so confident.

I blinked, searching for what to say, coming up with nothing except a bright warmth in my chest. I slipped my hand into his and the warm brush of his skin against mine, the light scrape of his callouses against my fingers made my blood hum. His thumb moved against the back of my hand, back and forth in comforting strokes.

I could lie here forever with him on the roof, staring at the stars.

“Look,” Finn whispered, pointing.

A shooting star spilled light across the inky sky, there for a moment and gone in a flash. My mind scrambled to make a wish. To pick something good.

Maybe I couldn’t be without Finn either, and I wished I’d never have to.


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