“What is this?” he asked, enjoying her nearness and the sweet smell of her hair—a flowery scent that seemed to hover around her like a halo. He could sit here all day like this, with Morgan fussing over him.
“It’s a homemade remedy for stains. Hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and a little dish detergent.” She put her fingers to her perfectly-shaped ruby lips. “Shh. It’s one of Mama’s family secrets.”
“I promise not to tell,” he said with a chuckle. “Hey! Any more of those chocolate chip cookies left?”
Morgan walked over toward the stove and pulled out a cookie tin. She made her way back to the table and handed it to him. “For you. I stashed some away for you as a small reward. Take them home with you.”
Luke took the tin and immediately opened it. He reached in and pulled out an over-sized cookie, immediately taking a bite of it. He closed his eyes and let out a moan of appreciation. “Mmm. These are killer!”
“I can’t thank you enough for helping me out today. Little did you know what was in store for you when you walked in here today.”
Luke nodded. “Truth is, you provided me with a much-needed distraction today.”
“Why today? Is something going on at Duvall?” Morgan’s brow was now furrowed. Concern flared in her russet-colored eyes.
Luke hesitated for a moment. Morgan was on such a high after the successful lunch service. He didn’t want to bring the vibe down, although he did need to get this off his chest. When it came to the beloved sister he’d lost, Luke usually kept his feelings hidden away. For him, it was a physic wound that most people couldn’t relate to. Morgan was different though.
“It’s the anniversary of Rachel’s death.” The words tumbled out of his mouth.
“Oh, Luke. I’m so sorry. I knew it was this month, but I’d forgotten the date.” She reached out and grabbed ahold of his hand. Tears shimmered in her eyes.
Luke heaved a tremendous sigh. “I don’t know why it hasn’t gotten any easier over the years. I still remember that day in vivid detail. I still ask myself what I could have done to change the course of events.”
Morgan sent him a pointed look and raised an eyebrow.
“What’s with that look? Do you know something I don’t?” Luke asked.
Morgan nodded, her black hair swirling around her shoulders. “It’s no small wonder you’re still stuck in the past regarding the accident. I think you feel responsible.” Morgan blurted out the words.
Luke sucked in a deep breath. Discussing Rachel was difficult, which was the main reason he tried to avoid it. For the most part it was easy to get away with, since she’d died at such a young age. Sadly, most of his friends had almost forgotten she had ever existed. But not Morgan. Never Morgan. She was one of the few people in the world he trusted with his remembrances about his sister. Callie—who had been adopted after Rachel’s death—hadn’t known Rachel. Come to think of it, the topic of his deceased sibling wasn’t something he and Callie had ever discussed more than a handful of times.
He’d never imagined that Morgan would hit upon his secret, particularly when no one in his family ever had sensed it. And if they had, not a single one had broached the matter with him. He did feel responsible. And over the years that sensation had never left him. Luke had tried to stuff it down, stomp on it, bury it. But it always came back to him.
“Come on, Luke.” She grabbed his hand and tugged him toward the back door of the kitchen.
“Hey! Where are you taking me? Don’t you have to finish up around here?”
“Nope.” She grinned at him. “Lunch has been served. Dishes have been cleared. I only have to map out tomorrow’s meals and I’ve already decided to serve flapjacks, eggs benedict, fruit cocktail and ham for breakfast. Lunch will be tortellini, a bacon and kale salad, buttermilk biscuits and peach cobbler.” Whenever Morgan talked about food, her voice became really animated and she threw her hands in the air with enthusiasm.
Luke winked at her. “If I wasn’t already crazy about you, your skill in creating mouth-watering meals would serve as a huge incentive.”
“Mama always said that a way to man’s heart was through his stomach.”
“Oh, I see. That was your Mama who said that?” Luke asked with a chuckle. “It couldn’t have been mine since she never learned to cook. Although the poor thing still thinks everyone believes she cooks the delicious meals that come out of our kitchen.”
Morgan threw back her head and whooped with laughter. It was a well-known fact in Savannah that Davinia Duvall relied heavily on cooks who worked in the home and prepared meals for the
Once Morgan wrenched the back door open, they were bathed in sunlight. Their hands were still linked, and as if by instinct, they began walking toward the beach, which was only a stone’s throw away from Savannah House. Sea, sun and sand beckoned them.
Morgan let go of his hand and began running toward the beach. She turned around and playfully called out to him to catch up to her. She motioned wildly with her hands. Luke raced to reach Morgan’s side. He stopped midway as his breathing became ragged. His heart seemed to be racing faster than usual. Ever since the accident and his hospitalization, he’d been feeling off-kilter. Not like his usual self. As Callie had suggested, he really needed to check in with his primary care physician about this lingering feeling of malaise. It was starting to get on his nerves.
By the time he caught up with Morgan, she had climbed to the top of the bright red lifeguard’s station. She threw her arms wide open and yelled out, “Thank you Lord for this glorious day and for allowing us to experience it together.”
“Amen,” he shouted up at the heavens. He loved Morgan’s exuberance. Luke looked up at her, admiring the graceful slope of her neck, her stunning features and her warm, expressive eyes. At this very moment he saw nothing but happiness in their depths. Her joy was contagious. He scrambled up the ladder and joined her. Luke looked out over the endless miles of ocean and sand. Nothing was more beautiful than the shores of Tybee Island. A feeling of gratitude rose up inside him. He was blessed to be here sharing this moment with the woman he loved.
Morgan turned toward him, a huge smile etched on her face as she looked up at him. Something in her eyes invited him to kiss her. It was a subtle look, and he could be mistaken about it, but he didn’t think so. Lord knows that he didn’t need an excuse to do it, but the look in Morgan’s eyes compelled him to act. He placed his hands around Morgan’s waist and gently pulled her toward him, lowering his lips toward hers as the rushing roar of the ocean pounded in his ears.