“Daddy, I like Danielle, she is pretty. Could she come live with us? Maybe she could help you to not be sad anymore.” Luke Turner’s four-year-old daughter Meg innocently questioned him from her car seat in the back of the car, on their way home from his cousin Caleb and Pasiphae’s wedding, before adding, “I think I will call her Mama Dani.”
Luke could not bring himself to respond to his little girl’s questions. It was still too painful a subject for him to talk about, especially with his daughter who was too young to understand. Meg was barely two when she lost her mother and has no memory of her. Other than the pictures that cover her bedroom wall, she knows next to nothing about her mom.
Luke’s silence along with the lull of the car ride eventually put Meg to sleep, leaving Luke with thoughts he desperately wanted to forget. He had attempted to put thoughts of Danielle Williams out of his mind every time her face flashed before him, but Meg’s words were burning a hole in his soul.
Luke first saw Danielle nearly a year ago during Caleb’s trial for a murder a detective framed him for. Fortunately, that situation resolved itself, and the judge dismissed the case against Caleb when the truth came to light.
He immediately recognized the pull in his soul towards Danielle’s soul when he shook her hand while staring into the greenest eyes he had ever seen. He felt the truth that she was his soulmate, but he did not want it to be true.
He already married his soulmate, Molly Gibbs. They had five memorable years together, and their love created a beautiful little girl. When he lost Molly to breast cancer, he accepted he would spend the rest of his life alone. He never desired nor conceived of the possibility that he could find another soulmate, but there she was standing in front of him.
He painfully noticed that she felt the pull towards his soul as well, but he was nowhere near prepared or ready to accept the second gift life sent him standing before him.
After the trial, he joined all of his family to celebrate Caleb’s victory at his Aunt’s house. It did not go unnoticed that Danielle could not keep her eyes off him during the meal. He felt her eyes as they searched the depths of his soul.
Luke was not close to this side of his family. Therefore, they didn’t know about his loss when Rey asked where his wife was. He barely got the words out that he was a widower. Having already experienced what it means to have a soulmate, he recognized Danielle was feeling his pain because he could feel what it was doing to her soul when the tears cascaded down her cheeks. His soul ached to hold her and ease her pain, but his heart and mind fought against the feelings in his soul.
He walked away from Danielle that day, imagining he could go the rest of his life without running into her again. He did not know Caleb’s family would include him in their plans from now on. His cousins were so grateful to him for monitoring Caleb at the prison that they wanted Luke and Meg to be a regular part of their celebrations, so when he accepted the invitation to Rey’s wedding, he did so reluctantly knowing Danielle probably received an invitation as well. His pain wanted him to decline the invitation, but his soul would not allow him to listen to his sorrow.
He couldn’t take his eyes off her profile during the wedding, while she sat on Lisabeth’s side and he sat on Rey’s side. From his position he spent the wedding unconsciously memorizing the right side of her face. Her beautiful skin was milky smooth. She smiled through the entire ceremony, revealing a couple visible smile lines telling her probable age.
When the ceremony was over, he considered asking her to dance, until he noticed her off to the side smoking a cigarette. That was a deal breaker for him, cigarettes were one of his biggest turnoffs. When Danielle bravely approached him for a dance, he politely denied her request. The smell of nicotine surrounding her exquisite physique was turning his stomach upside down.
After that wedding, she was the first person he thought about every morning and the last person he would think about when he laid down at night. He used her smoking as an excuse to not reach out to her, but ultimately it was his guilt over another woman having touched his soul that forced him to shake off his desire for her every day.
It was another six months before Caleb invited him to Texas for his wedding. This time he was bringing his daughter. When he arrived at the cabin where the wedding was being held, he turned the corner the very moment that Danielle was walking out of the house onto the back porch in the sexiest, off the shoulder, knee-length, red dress Luke had ever seen, and if the dress wasn’t enough to increase the blood flowing through his body, she had on brown cowboy boots.
For a moment he imagined laying her down in her red dress, while his hand moved up underneath it just enough for him to move it out of the way in order to make love to her while she wrapped her legs, with those incredible boots on, around his back.
She lost her balance at the sight of him, and he was confident he was absolutely the reason her feet nearly fell out from under her. Instinct alone was what sent him to her rescue. Their eyes briefly met, before he painfully let her go so she could walk down the invisible aisle towards the rest of the wedding party.
Luke couldn’t help but notice she did not smell like nicotine when he briefly had her close to his body. She smelled like strawberries mixed with another familiar smell he could not place.
His guilt and grief were no longer enough to keep his eyes off Danielle, the woman his soul was clearly screaming at him to call to. During dinner his daughter, whom he had never seen hold a conversation with an adult she didn’t know, actually told Danielle to call her Meg. Luke was the only one that ever called her Meg. Meg’s acceptance of Danielle was the first step in chipping away at the armor surrounding Luke’s angry heart.
Later in the night, Luke had to watch Danielle dance with Caleb’s groomsman, Cole, for most of the night. Luke knew Cole from his time served in prison. Luke was a correction’s officer at the prison where Caleb and Cole met. Luke’s insides were on fire, watching Danielle in this man’s arms. It didn’t matter, Cole obviously was not interested in Danielle how he was. If he was a younger, less mature man, he might have told Cole where he could go. Instead, he allowed his pride to keep him planted in his seat, when he should have cut in like Danielle desperately wanted him to.
By the time Luke pulled into his driveway back in Louisiana, he had once again put Danielle in the back of his mind. Hopefully, it would be awhile before he ran into her again.