Prologue ~ 1998
It was a bitter stormy night while Luke laid in their bed holding his wife, his soulmate Molly as she slipped away from him. She fought harder to live for him than he imagined anyone had ever fought.
When he finally met Molly Gibbs, he had given up hope of ever finding his soulmate. He was thirty when Molly walked into the prison as a sheriff’s deputy for the women’s block. He knew instantly that she was his soulmate, the other half of his soul, the one created for him.
He did not want to waste any time beginning their journey together. He asked her out on a date immediately, and she eagerly accepted his invitation. The soulmates married each other within three months.
Luke and Molly began trying to get pregnant right away. Molly was twenty-eight and did not want to wait to start a family. When she did not get pregnant the first two years they were married, she went to see a specialist who found benign tumors (fibroids) growing in her uterus. After a simple procedure to remove the growths, she got pregnant with their daughter right away.
Molly gave birth to their beautiful angel, Megan, with no complications. Molly wanted more than anything to breastfeed her little girl, but after the first couple of months the pain in her breasts she had been ignoring became unbearable.
With Molly’s history, the doctor recommended a mammogram. The news was the worst possible news they could receive. They found cancer in both of her breasts and she would need a double mastectomy immediately.
Luke stood by his soulmate as she bravely lost both of her breasts, went through round after round of chemotherapy, and when all of her hair fell out, he shaved his head to match hers.
The last set of tests the doctors ran showed that the cancer had spread throughout most of her body, and that the chemotherapy was not working. Cancer was aggressively eating away every bit of the love of his life, and there was not a thing he could do to stop it.
When they received the news that Molly would not recover, Luke noticed she seemed to know already and that she had made her peace with the news.
Molly tried to help him face the horrible truth that he was going to have to raise their daughter alone, but he refused to allow her strength into his soul. He was angry and bitter that God blessed him with her only to lose her before growing old with her.
She had spent most of the last six months of her life in and out of the hospital. She had begged him to take her home, as she knew the end was near. They spent every possible moment holding each other for the last few days of her life.
Luke would lie on his back, while Molly laid her head on his chest. Both of his arms held onto her fiercely, as if his arms could keep her here on earth. Before she closed her eyes for the last time, she lifted her head to look into her soulmate’s eyes. “Luke, my darling, my soulmate. I will always love you. I need you to get through this. Megan needs you to survive, and to be everything to her we cannot be together for her. I am leaving this body, but I am not leaving your heart. Know that if I could stay, I would. I love you.”
It took every ounce of strength that she had left to speak her last words into his soul, before she fell back onto his chest. “I love you more than anything,” he told her as she took her last breath.
Chapter 1 ~ Luke
“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.
Chapter 2 ~ Danielle
Danielle decided this year she had only one New Year’s resolution, and that was to get over a certain man who clearly did not want her how she wanted him.
Danielle had bad luck with men. If you asked all of her previous suitors, they would tell you she was the bad luck. Danielle was the very definition of a runaway bride. In her thirty-six years, she had skipped out on six weddings. The first wedding she was sixteen and pregnant, of course, she had run away. She was a terrified child, about to have a child of her own.
Now, here she was, six men and one daughter later, all alone. Even her twenty-year-old daughter, Darion, left her when the courts said she was old enough to choose between her or her father. She painfully chose her dad, and Danielle couldn’t blame her. Danielle was not exactly the perfect mother. They spoke on the phone occasionally, but Danielle hadn’t seen her daughter in eight years. Darion had moved to Trinidad and Tobago with her dad, when he moved back to his native country because his visa expired. Danielle longed to see her daughter again, and to have a genuine relationship with her, but her hope of that every happening was less than slim. Especially since she turned eighteen and basically had cut her out of her life.
When she met Luke Turner, something from deep inside of her soul told her this was the one man she would never run away from. She thought he might be what she had spent her entire life longing for.
There he was, standing in front of her, the perfect specimen of a man. Exactly what she imagined the sexiest man in the universe to look like. He was a couple of inches over six feet tall. His eyes were green like hers, but not as bright, and they appeared to contain a splash of golden flecks. The only word she could form to describe his lips was suckable. Directly below his juicy lips was the chin dimple she realized was a common genetic trait in the Turner men. The cherry on top was his clean-shaven head. A completely bald man turned her head every time. When he shook her hand, she felt electricity flow through her veins.
When she learned he was a widower, she felt her heart break. It was like his pain somehow momentarily became her pain. The wedding band he was still wearing on his finger was an obvious message that he was not ready to move on.
During their second encounter at her friend’s wedding, she asked him to dance, knowing he might need her to make the first move. She was not sure why, but when he turned her down, she thought he seemed repulsed by her request.
For a brief second at their third encounter, when he caught her before she nearly fell on her face, she thought she saw desire in his eyes. After he sat around sulking for the entire wedding, they were both at; she resolved to give up on the notion of ever winning the heart of Luke Turner.
She walked into her first ER shift, hoping to focus on her patients instead of the tall drink of water that kept unwittingly creeping into her mind. She was doing a fairly decent job of it until she pulled the waiting chart and saw the name Megan Turner written clearly in black and white. Maybe there was more than one Megan Turner. She checked the age to see if the patient could be anyone other than the little girl who belonged to the only man she ever wanted to give her entire being to. Date of birth was March 5, 1996. Her heart was beating out of her chest, knowing Luke was probably on the other side of the waiting room door.
She opened the door, prepared to call Megan’s name, but Megan saw her first. She took off running towards Danielle and grabbed her leg with one arm. She was holding onto Danielle, as if she was afraid she was going to disappear on her. She was looking up at her, with eyes that had to match her mother’s because they were a golden brown. She joyfully declared to Danielle, “I have missed you.”
Danielle, lost for words, honestly had thought little about the young girl holding onto her leg because she mainly focused on trying to forget her dad. Before she could find her tongue, Luke stepped in to the rescue, “Meg, come here.” Megan reluctantly released Danielle and went over to her father.
Danielle takes her eyes off the precious girl to force her eyes to look at Luke. He was wearing his uniform this afternoon. She did not hide the fact that she was enjoying the view of him in full uniform. “F…, I am not going to be able to keep this resolution, am I?” She thought to herself. Danielle did a pretty decent job of keeping her potty mouth to herself most days, which was a good thing because her thoughts were never under control.
It took a four-year-old to bring Danielle out of her trance, “Are you going to make my arm stop hurting?”
Danielle drops to her knee to get on Megan’s level, “What happened to your arm, Meg?” She remembered she wanted her to call her Meg and not Megan, which pleased both Luke and Meg.
“I fell off my new bike, Daddy got me for Christmas. He said I might have broken it.” Danielle had thought little about Meg, until now, but she was weaving herself into Danielle’s heart. Danielle’s thoughts were getting away from her again, when she reached out for Meg’s good hand to lead her back into a room, “I am in a shitload of trouble. These two are going to break my heart.”