Tears misted in his eyes. “When you put it like that, it doesn’t make any sense to blame myself. And I’ve asked God so many times how He could have failed Rachel in her time of need.”
“Oh Luke. You can’t carry this around with you anymore. It’s tearing you up inside. Even if it’s only once a year that these feelings resurface, it’s not healthy. You have to let it go.”
She reached for him, wrapping her arms around him and burrowing her head against his chest. Luke’s fingers trailed through her hair and she closed her eyes, praying as she did so that Luke would be able to release himself from his survivor’s guilt. She couldn’t imagine how terrible it must have been for the Duvall family to fly home to Savannah as a family of three rather than as a foursome. And the days, weeks and months afterward must have been agonizing. And yet, Luke was still mourning this anniversary as if no time had elapsed at all.
They cradled each other for a few minutes. Morgan prayed Luke was drawing strength from her. She would let him lean on her for as long as he needed.
She felt Luke gently untangling himself from her.
“I hate to leave, but I need to get back to work before they send out a search team,” Luke teased. His tone sounded lighter. The expression in his eyes wasn’t as cloudy as it had been earlier. She hoped in some small way she’d helped ease his burden and dulled his pain.
“I’d say we should race back to the house, but something tells me you’d beat me hands down.” Luke flexed his arm. “I’m going to have to get back in the gym and work out.”
“Thanks for coming over. You brightened my day,” Morgan said.
Luke pressed a kiss against her forehead. “You gave me a lot to think about. There’s no place I’d rather be today than with you.”
“I want to jump down,” Morgan said, surprising herself with her announcement. She wasn’t a big fan of heights, and from this vantage point, the ground seemed so very far away. She was going to do it anyway. She was literally going to step out on a ledge and take a leap of faith. Morgan was discovering with each day that she could be brave. Small steps led to bigger ones.
“Let me head down so I can spot you.” Luke turned and headed down the ladder, reaching the sand in seconds.
Morgan peered over the edge. She felt a trickle of fear shoot straight through her. What if she twisted her ankle? Or hurt herself in some other way? It seemed much higher now than when she’d climbed up here.
This was ridiculous! As a child she’d jumped effortlessly from this exact lifeguard chair. When has she allowed fear and doubt to creep into her soul?
“Come on. Jump.” Luke’s steady voice spurred her on. Murmuring a prayer for safekeeping, she threw her arms out to the side and jumped. As Morgan jumped down from the lifeguard chair, Luke reached up and caught her just before she touched the ground, grabbing her around the waist to steady her landing. She knew that he did it by instinct, not wanting Morgan to fall. At the same time, she reached for him, wrapping her arms around his neck. With the briny scent of the sea filling their nostrils, and the wind whipping against them, Morgan almost felt as if they had been transported to another place and time. Their own little paradise. Morgan couldn’t remember a time in her life when she’d felt so blissful. So content.
She prayed it would continue.
By the time Luke made his way back to the offices of Duvall Investments, it was late afternoon. He hadn’t been in his office for more a few minutes when his cousin, Case, came striding through the doors.
“Hey, cuz. I’ve been looking for you all afternoon.” Case—tall and broad-shouldered with dirty blond hair—was the quintessential businessman. Dressed in a dark suit with a light blue dress shirt and turquoise tie, he looked like he’d just stepped out of the pages of GQ magazine. Prior to his engagement to Fancy, Case had been a much sought after bachelor in Savannah. They were getting married in a few weeks at Savannah House, right before Christmas. Luke had happily agreed to be his cousin’s best man.
“Sorry. I lost track of time,” he said. His mind was still back on Tybee Island with Morgan. Something about being in her presence always lifted him up. She always gave him hope for a brighter day. And it felt good to be able to talk to her about Rachel and know she understood how he felt. Her words of wisdom had packed a solid punch. Blaming himself for Rachel’s death was pointless. And maybe he’d been punishing himself as a way of holding on to Rachel.
“What’s with the giddy smile?” Case asked with a frown. “You look like the cat that swallowed the cream.”
He sat back in his leather chair and crossed his hands behind his head. “Oh. Not much. I was at Savannah House.”
“Oh. I see,” Case said with a wide grin. “And did you see Morgan by chance?”
Luke felt a gigantic smile breaking out on his face. He couldn’t contain it! He imagined it was written all over his face. “Yes, I did. She had a kitchen crisis precipitated by a sick sous-chef. I ended up helping her with the lunch service, which was phenomenal of course.” He shook his head. “I think that woman could cook blind-folded. She’s incredible. We spent some time on the beach talking and relaxing. It was nice.”
“I’ll bet. I have to say, I never heard you talk this way about Violet. So it’s just as well that you guys broke up. Life is way too short for either of you to settle for anything other than the real deal.”
“Morgan is the real deal. It’s rather incredible to be back together with her.”
“You love her. I get it. You don’t have to say another word. I support the two of you in this relationship. You’re both pretty special individuals.”
“I appreciate that sentiment. If Morgan and I can get to a place where we’re as blissful and centered about the future as you and Fancy are, I’ll be very grateful.”
Case chuckled. “If anyone had told me last year that Fancy and I would be walking down the aisle in a few weeks, I’d call them certified. We went through our trials and made it through the fire. I can’t say that I relish those hard times, but it certainly made us stronger as a couple and more grounded in our faith. We know God led us through the turbulent times. He never stopped leading us straight back to each other.”
Luke nodded. He knew that he was in it with Morgan for the long haul. His faith was an important part of his life, as well as Morgan’s. If things went according to his grand plan, he would marry Morgan, build a family and they would stay with each other, come what may. Through good times and bad.
“I agree with you wholeheartedly. I’ve uttered a lot of prayers over the past years about my future with Morgan. Some days I didn’t feel that God was listening, but I know now He was. And I’ve learned a lot about patience and His timing. I’ll admit that before I pretty much expected God to deliver things when I needed or wanted them.” He threw his head back and laughed. “I’ve grown up a bit since then.”