Carrie tried but found she was unable to fall back to sleep. Apparently, Finn wasn’t having much luck, either, because she could hear him moving about the outer room as if he was as restless as she was.
Seeking a comfortable position, Carrie tried sleeping on one side, then the other, and finally lay on her back, staring up at the ceiling. His room had a window, and after what seemed like an eternity, she tossed the thick covers away and climbed out of bed. Her feet made no sound as she walked over to the window and pushed the curtain to one side. Staring into the night, she looked up at the heavens.
Once more she was struck by the brilliant dark sky with countless stars. The moon was full and lit up the frozen lake like stage lighting. No wonder Finn loved Alaska. This was a magical place, beautiful and uncomplicated, so far removed from the craziness of city life.
After a while she returned to the main room to find Finn sitting at his desk. Right away he heard her and whirled around in his chair. He seemed surprised to find her awake.
“I couldn’t sleep, either,” she confessed.
He immediately closed the document on his computer, as if he didn’t want her to see what he was writing.
“Another book?” she dared to ask.
“If I admit it, will you put that in the article?” The question was more of an accusation.
“I … I don’t know.”
He closed the lid to the laptop.
“If you’re writing a sequel, I can tell you your readers will be more than thrilled.”
He ignored the comment and glanced at his wrist. “Sawyer should be here within the hour.”
“Already?” It seemed far too soon. She wasn’t eager to leave. Finn’s father’s wedding band remained in her jeans pocket, and she thought to simply leave it in the cabin for him to find once she was gone. However, seeing his reaction to it earlier prompted her to keep it for now. She’d return the gold ring to his mother at Christmas.
Sure enough, within the hour the sound of an approaching aircraft filled the house. The noise seemed to multiply, stirring up the atmosphere inside the cabin, building anticipation.
“That must be Sawyer,” Finn said.
Carrie nodded. Dragging her carry-on to the door, she checked the cabin to be sure she hadn’t left anything behind.
Finn stood in the kitchen sipping coffee, as if, in these final moments, he wanted to keep as much distance between them as possible.
Hennessey barked, and rushed to the door, wanting out. Finn opened it just as the float plane bounced against the solid ice and skidded for several feet in the surrounding moonlight.
“The trip out here was my first experience in a single-engine plane,” she said, more to fill the silence than to make a statement.
Without commenting, Finn reached for her suitcase and carried it outside. Carrie followed, a lump in her throat. That she should get all emotional over this farewell was an embarrassment. She was determined not to let Finn see how discombobulated she felt. It was ridiculous. She barely knew this man. He’d let it be known she was a nuisance and considered himself well rid of her.
By the time she reached the plane, Finn had the passenger door open and her suitcase stored inside. He exchanged a few short sentences with Sawyer, but she couldn’t hear what he said over the roar of the engine.
Carrie made sure she had a smile in place when he turned to face her. She hadn’t thought what her last words to him would be, and so she said what came instinctively.
“Thank you for everything.”
Cupping her shoulders, Finn looked down on her, his dark eyes as intense as she could ever remember seeing them.
She met his gaze, wanting to tell him without words how much the last two days had meant to her, and how impressed she was with the man he was. She longed to thank him for opening her eyes to what it was to be with a man who was passionate about life and who had shared that passion through stories of life in Alaska.
Staring down at her, his hands tightened. He murmured something she didn’t understand, and then he pulled her close as if he couldn’t help himself and lowered his mouth to hers.
Carrie gave a small cry of welcome and gratitude and clung to him. Finn’s hands cupped her face as he tilted her head to receive his kiss, which felt urgent and needy, needs that mirrored her own.
For a moment the sheer wonder of it nearly caused Carrie’s knees to collapse from under her. This was exactly what she wanted, what she’d hoped would happen. And his kiss was everything she could have imagined. More. Without fully being aware of what she was doing, Carrie locked her arms around his neck and kissed him back, wanting to return everything that he had given her.
After a long moment, Finn gradually released her from the kiss, but he still hugged her close and tight against him, half lifting her from the frozen lakebed.
“Good-bye, Finn,” she whispered close to his ear.
He kissed her neck and then whispered back, “Good-bye.”
She started to climb into the airplane but Finn stopped her by gripping hold of her hand. He looked deep into her eyes as if to gauge her reaction, and then leaned forward and said, “Carrie?”
“Yes?” Her heart was in her eyes. Could it be possible that he would ask her to stay? Did it seem as wrong to him as it did to her that they should part now? Surely he felt the very things she did.
Leaning in close, he kissed her one last time and then said, “Don’t write the article.”