“I like hearing you say it.”
She smiled at him, appearing euphoric. “I like saying it. It sounds good doesn’t it?”
He placed his hands around her waist and drew her in so that there were only inches resting between them. “It sounds like an answered prayer,” he said in a low voice. “I’m happy, Morgan. For a while now I haven’t been very content with where my life was it. I love my family, but I’m not sure I’m cut out for the family business. I don’t hate working at Duvall Investments, but every single day I think about being on stage.”
“Doesn’t that become difficult?” she asked. Her question had hit the nail right on the head. As of late, it had become very tricky to balance his life in a way that led to contentment. And even though he’d prayed about it, he knew that sometimes all the prayer in the world wouldn’t change things. He had to lead himself out of the situation.
“Sometimes it is very difficult,” he admitted. Just saying it out loud to Morgan lifted a huge weight off his shoulders. “I’ve been telling myself lately that I have to be true to myself. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve been going through the motions for a while now. When I was with Violet I kept trying to make myself fall in love with her. But that’s not how love works. You can’t force it. And love doesn’t fit into some cookie cutter design. I feel free now that I’m following my heart. Being with you means I’m allowed to be my authentic self. That’s how I want to feel about singing.”
“So what’s standing in your way?”
Luke quirked his mouth. “That’s a good question, one I’ve been having a lot of discussions with God about. What do I owe my family? How much do I have to sacrifice of myself to satisfy the family legacy?” He let out a harsh sounding laugh. “Would they still love me if I follow my own path?”
“Of course they would!” Morgan made a tutting sound. “I hope this isn’t about Rachel’s death, Luke. You’re not responsible. At the end of the day we don’t owe anyone our lives.”
“You’ve helped me a lot in that area. I’ve felt massive guilt over Rachel’s death and it always seemed to me that I had to find a way to make it up to my family.”
“You’re such a good man, Luke. It’s because that you’re such a great person that you’ve assigned blame to yourself for a tragic accident. It’s time you freed yourself from that responsibility. It’s time you allowed yourself to pursue your own dreams…unapologetically.”
“If only I could make my father understand that.”
She gently shook him. “You’ve got to try. It’s way too important of an issue for you to ignore. Do you really want to look back in twenty years and regret not pursuing a career in singing?”
Luke knew Morgan was right. He wanted a genuine, faith-based life filled with love, passion for his work and joy. Singing was a part of that equation.
“I did tell him about me and Violet ending things.” Luke made a face. “He wasn’t thrilled about it. And I didn’t tell him about the two of us for more than one reason. For starters, I didn’t want him to blame you for the breakup between me and Violet.”
“I appreciate that,” Morgan said with big eyes. “Your father is the last person I want to alienate.”
Luke reached out and smoothed his hand over Morgan’s head. “Don’t worry about that. He already loves you. Always has.”
Morgan bit her lip. She ran a hand through her long, ebony hair. “As Callie’s friend, not his son’s girlfriend. There’s a difference.”
“I’m itching to tell them. Truthfully, I’d love to shout it from the rooftops, but I wasn’t sure how you would want me to handle it. I didn’t want to tell my parents unless you were comfortable with that. I know in the past you were a little bit wary of dating a member of the Duvall family.” He clenched his jaw. “Has that changed?”
Morgan let out a sigh. “For starters, I never meant to make you feel as if I had anything against your family. I’ve always loved them, and you know how close I am to Callie. I think that I felt insecure about the class difference between our families. I’ve been aware of the fact that your father wanted you to marry into an affluent family who could help further the agenda of Duvall Investments.” She held up her hands. “That will never be me.”
Luke let out a groan. He’d always suspecte
d that Morgan felt that way, but in the past they’d never managed to get it out in the open and talk about it. Now, he was happy that they could at least clear the air. It spoke well for their future.
He reached for Morgan’s hands and joined them with his own. “You know stuff like that means nothing to me. It’s the very last thing that matters to me. At the same time, I don’t want to disrespect how you feel about those issues. I know people can be snobby sometimes and ignorant. That type of thing happens everywhere. And neither one of us are going to pretend that people can’t be petty or small-minded. But we’re not going to focus on it or let it ruin our bliss. Life is way too short to focus on anything other than our happiness.”
“Luke, I totally agree. My basic philosophy is that people are good at heart. I know your parents are wonderful people. I’ve just had a lot of rejection in my life, so it makes me a little wary.” Her voice softened. “When your own father basically leaves you in his rearview mirror you tend to grow up feeling a tad insecure.”
Luke pressed a kiss on Morgan’s forehead. The expression on her face spoke volumes. She had been terribly wounded by an absentee father. And she feared that his own father wouldn’t accept her as his partner because she didn’t hail from a rich, high society family.
“Don’t ever worry about my father rejecting you, Morgan. He’s a good man. He gets some crazy ideas from time to time, but I like to think he’s evolved in the last few years.”
Luke let out a chuckle as he thought about the look on his father’s face when he’d realized that the Craddock-Duvall dynasty had crumbled before it even began. Lionel Duvall’s expression had been one of utter shock. Luke knew he’d get over it, even though as a businessman Lionel was always seeking to make his family corporation stronger.
“Well, since Mama already knows about us, why don’t we plan dinner with your folks? That way we can introduce ourselves as a couple to them,” Morgan suggested. “It’s only a matter of time until they hear the Savannah scuttlebutt.”
“Hey. That would be great. We can invite Callie and Jax too. You have no idea how happy it makes me to hear that you want to announce our relationship to the world.”
A sweet smile graced her lips. “I think it’s because I feel more confident about myself. Coming back from Paris, reuniting with the girls, receiving the inheritance from Miss Hattie…and being back together with you, Luke, are the things that have changed me. I was jealous seeing you with Violet, even though I knew I was the one who’d ended things. It was my weakness that tore us apart.”
He placed a finger on her lips. “Shh…that’s all in the past. Everything that happened led us right here to where we’re standing today. And if it made you stronger, then it was a valuable life lesson.”