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He reached out and pulled her to him in an embrace meant to give her comfort. After a few moments she pulled away, seeming to distance herself from him. He wasn’t sure if he’d imagined it, but it hadn’t seemed if Morgan had been hugging him back.

“What happened last night?” he asked, cutting to the chase. He could see the pain in Morgan’s eyes and he knew a part of her had shut down.

She looked back toward the water. “We went to dinner and everything was absolutely perfect until he asked me to donate bone marrow to my half-sister.” Morgan’s voice didn’t even sound like her own. It sounded hollow. “He wanted to save his daughter, which is commendable. But he tricked me in the process. He made me think that he cared about me, that he wanted to make things right between us.”

“I’m so sorry he hurt you. So very sorry. But don’t let this make you jaded or bitter. Don’t let him change who you are at your core.”

“I’m trying, Luke. But this rubbed at an unhealed scar. It reached deep down inside me and yanked at my heartstrings.”

“I love you, Morgan. And I want to help you through this. Whatever you need. I’m here for you. I think it would be good for you to come to dinner tonight. It would be the two of us moving forward as a couple. It would be good for you to focus on something else rather than your disastrous evening with your father.”

“I’m sorry, Luke.” She shook her head. “My heart just isn’t in it.”

Frustration threatened to choke him. Suddenly he felt as if he was back at square one with Morgan. He was still pushing and prodding and trying to get her to step out on the limb of faith. And now, he had the feeling she was talking about more than dinner. Was her heart not in their relationship? Was she straddling the fence once again? She loves me, she loves me not.

“So, do I have your heart?” Luke asked, locking gazes with Morgan.

Surprise registered on her face. “Luke, you know how I feel about you.”

“Do I?” he asked. “Because as many times as I’ve told you that I loved you, you’ve never said it once back to me. Why is that?”

“I don’t know,” she whispered. “I’m not good at saying how I feel.”

“Do you love me? It’s a pretty simple question.”

Morgan’s eyes went wide. She resembled a deer caught in the headlights. “I-I…please don’t put me on the spot like this. Not now. Not when all of my hurts are resting right on the surface.”

Her hurts? She wasn’t the only one who’d been hurting. He loved this woman more than he could every convey in words. He’d stood by her, encouraged her, courted her, uplifted her…and yet she was still unable to reciprocate his feelings of love. And he sensed that her father’s actions had caused her to question everything in her life. She was still uncertain. She wasn’t ready to walk out on faith and believe in his love. And without that, they truly had nothing. A relationship was only as strong as its foundation—the two people who’d laid the brick and mortar.

“For me, life is too short to not embrace love. To not chase it down.” He clenched his teeth as emotion began to overwhelm him. “I can’t help but try and reach for the brass ring. And I thought that’s what you wanted too, Morgan. If there’s anything I’ve learned from Rachel’s death, it’s to reach for the things I want in this life. Tomorrow isn’t promised.” He reached out and traced her lips with his fingertip. “I reached out for you. I’ve let you know in a hundred different ways how much I love and adore you.”

“I know, Luke. You’ve been wonderful. I just need some time to think, to process what happened with my father.”

“You’re backing away from this, aren’t you? It’s written all over your face. I can hear it in your voice.”

“No, I’m not. I still care about you Luke, but I just feel so uncertain about everything.”

“I don’t understand that. Your father hasn’t been in your life for years. And yes, I know what he did was hurtful, but it has nothing to do with the two of us.”

“I’m sorry for disappointing you,” she said in a small voice.

“It’s more than mere disappointment. We’ve been dancing around this for years! Years of both of our lives. Morgan, you know me. You know what kind of man I am. What else do you need? I don’t want to be collateral damage for the sins of the father. I can’t carry that load!”

“You shouldn’t have to. I’m releasing you from that obligation.” Tears slid down Morgan’s face, and although his first instinct was to comfort her, he knew it would be a pointless gesture. They were at an impasse. They were over. And there might not be a way to come back from this. If Morgan had reached out to him and told him she loved him, he would have knelt at her feet and asked her to marry him on the spot. But she was stuck. Chained to the past and the pain that had been inflicted on her by her father. She was afraid to reach out for his love, scared that he might break her heart or abandon her or twist her up in knots.

And he never would have. Not in a million years. But Morgan still didn’t trust in that. She still didn’t believe. He wasn’t sure she ever would.

As Luke walked back across the beach and toward his car, he felt the aching sensation of his heart breaking all over again. Strangely enough, it felt just as devastating as the first time.


Morgan walked back across the beach to Savannah House. Through a haze of tears she watched as Luke drove out of the driveway like a bat out of hell. She didn’t blame him for being angry. Feelings of unworthiness crept over her. What kind of woman couldn’t accept the love of a man like Luke? As if on auto-pilot, she entered the kitchen and began going over her menu for the following day. It felt strange to be doing something so mundane when her heart had shattered beyond repair. She caught Henry staring at her a few times with a puzzled expression on his face. Perhaps, she thought, he recognized the look of heartbreak etched on her face.


the time her shift was over, a numb feeling had taken over her. In a quiet moment she’d told Fancy everything and been consoled by her friend. She didn’t want to tell Callie just yet, although she knew Fancy might reveal all to her later on.

All afternoon Morgan had smiled and nodded, laughed at jokes and dished out gingersnaps and raspberry lemonade for the afternoon snack. She’d put a brave face on, never letting anyone other than Fancy see her pain. And it had taken a toll on her. Once she got behind the wheel she began to sob and pound her fists against the steering wheel.

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