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“It’s my pleasure, Luke.” He turned toward Morgan. “And who do we have here?”

“This is Morgan Lucas. She’s a big fan of yours,” Luke explained.

“Good evening, Morgan.” He held out his hand to Morgan. She reached out and shook it. Andre looked at Luke and winked. “I see now why you were jumping through hoops to make this happen.”

Morgan felt her cheeks getting heated. “I feel very blessed to be here. The fact that you’ve prepared our meal for us tonight is mind blowing.”

“Morgan is a chef also. She’s head chef at Savannah House on Tybee Island.” Morgan smiled at the boasting tone in Luke’s voice. “You really need to taste her food. She really knows her way around a kitchen.”

“Compared to you, I’m just a novice,” she said, feeling unworthy of even being mentioned in the same breath as Andre DeSoto, chef extraordinaire.

“That’s excellent, Morgan,” Andre said. “I’ll have to make a reservation to stay for a weekend at Savannah House. I’ve been hearing a lot about it. My wife would love a getaway without the kids.” He chuckled. “I love all four of them, but peace and quiet would be nice for a few days.”

“I’ll look forward to seeing you,” Morgan replied.

“I don’t want you to wait a moment longer for your appetizers.” With a flourish, he took off the lids and revealed two bowls of soup. A delectable aroma wafted under their noses.

“Clam and corn chowder with bacon,” he announced.

“Mmm. It looks delicious,” Morgan raved as Andre placed the steaming bowl of chowder down in front of her, then did the same with Luke’s serving.

“I have a nice Pinot Gris for you to try.” Andre poured wine into each of their glasses. “Enjoy. I’ll be back in a moment with your entrees.”

Morgan and Luke didn’t waste any time getting started with the soup. Morgan wasn’t surprised at how delicious it tasted. All of the different flavors were melting on her tongue. Conversation flowed easily between herself and Luke as a server came and whisked their plates away and they waited for their entrée. Within minutes Andre returned with a dish that looked so delectable Morgan feared she might be drooling.

“Rosemary braised lamb shanks with garlic mashed potatoes and roasted spring vegetables.” After placing their dishes down, Andre crossed his hands in a prayer-like fashion. “I hope you enjoy what I’ve prepared for you.” He nodded, then quickly vanished, leaving them to enjoy his cuisine.

Morgan and Luke devoured their meal, only stopping to praise Chef Andre’s masterful culinary skills. Morgan could only hope that people felt this way about the food she prepared at Savannah House.

By the time dessert arrived—crème brulee—Morgan was in food overload. Chef Andre prepared food with such elegance and with a deft sensibility about pleasing the palate. After a few bites of the sweet treat, Morgan knew she’d had her full. Even though she’d brought some of her candy along with her in her purse, she couldn’t imagine indulging in it.

“I think we’d better make our way to the theater. The movie starts in a few minutes,” Luke said. Luke stood up and pulled out her chair for her. Andre came back out and they were able to thank him profusely for a stellar dinner. Once again Andre mentioned making a reservation at Savannah House, which both thrilled and frightened Morgan. She would have to make sure her dishes were out of this world if she was going to impress a legendary chef like Andre DeSoto.

Sensing her thoughts, Luke reached out and pulled her close to his side. “He’s going to love your cuisine. And he’ll adore Savannah House. It’s going to be a win-win.”

Luke’s affirmation meant the world to her. To be lifted up by him meant the world to her. He was showing her in every way what kind of partner—husband—he would be. And even though she knew they had a long way to go before they could even speak of such things, she nestled that knowledge deep in her soul. Luke Duvall was a keeper if ever there was one.

She reached out for Luke’s hand and they walked toward the theater hand in hand. This was the first time that Morgan had fully embraced being out with Luke as a couple. In the past she’d always felt a bit uncertain, and since they hadn’t broadcast their status as boyfriend and girlfriend, it had always felt as if they were not official. But tonight felt different. There was no question that they were a romantic item. The way Luke had planned this special evening for her spoke of his devotion and thoughtfulness. He’d said that he loved her—and his actions spoke of the truth in his words.

“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and he shall direct thy paths.” It was Morgan’s favorite passage from Proverbs 3:5-6. Oftentimes she drew on it for strength.

She needed to trust. In the Lord. In Luke. And in herself. The past didn’t need to shape her future. She was worthy of love and a man who adored her. Just because her father had walked away from her mother—and from her—it didn’t mean that she would suffer the same fate with Luke.

The rest of the evening passed in a blur of enjoyment. Watching the film in the beautifully restored theater was more enjoyable than Morgan could express with mere words. Experiencing it with Luke made it even more special. By the time Luke drove her home, Morgan was ready to call it a night. So much had transpired tonight. It had been a whirlwind with one surprise after the next.

Luke pressed his lips against hers in a sweet, romantic kiss that felt like a declaration. Morgan kissed him back with equal fervor, wishing this moment could last until the sun rose in the east. Being kissed by Luke made her feel more alive than she’d ever felt before. She was no longer standing in the shadows, afraid to take a chance at love. She was living in the moment and savoring each moment.

“Goodnight, Luke. Thank you for a beautiful evening. I don’t think anyone has made me feel so blessed and cared for in a very long time. Maybe not ever.” She reached up and pressed a kiss on his cheek. “Thank you, thank you, thank you. A million times, thank you.”

“You deserve it, Morgan. And there’s a whole lot more where that came from.” He grinned at her. “Just stick with me, kid. The world has a lot of wonderful things in store for us. This is just the beginning. You simply have to be open to it.”

Morgan shivered at the intensity radiating from Luke’s voice. He sounded so certain, so profound. It was an intoxicating feeling to know that good things were waiting around the corner for them. And Luke was telling her in a subtle way that she needed to be more open to all the possibilities this time. She needed to believe in them. In what they were building with one another.

I love this man. The words buzzed in her ears. As she stood at her front door, the idea of telling Luke how she felt seemed within reach. It was just one heartbeat away. All she had to do was open her mouth and say those three little words to him. I love you.

“Rest well, tonight,” Luke murmured as he backed away from her and turned toward his parked car.

“Goodnight,” she called out, filled with the knowledge that there were other words she hadn’t been able to utter, even though she longed to say them.

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