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The Temptation of Savannah O'Neill Molly O Keefe 2022/8/3 13:52:38

Instead there was the whirr and snick of cicadas hiding in leaves so dense, so green they looked black. An orange cat curled around his boots and the sun beat down on his head.

Numb. So numb to all that used to be.

Savannah stood behind him. He could feel her like a shadow over his face on a hot day. A mystery. A cool-eyed, blond-haired mystery.

That was it. That was all his world consisted of right now.

Because outside of this, this moment, this place, this mysterious woman, a point-seven-second nightmare waited for him, pacing the perimeter for the chance to attack.

Point-seven seconds was all it took for a building to come down. For a mistake to be made and a young man to die. Point-seven seconds. It was enough to make a guy go crazy if he thought about it long enough.

And Matt had been thinking about it for six months, two weeks and three days.

“Well,” Savannah said. “It sounds like Margot and I are lucky you were wandering through.”

“Do I have the job?” he asked, his voice rough even to his own ears.

He felt her at his shoulder and he turned, surprised to see her so close. She had a spray of freckles across her nose. And her eyes weren’t totally blue. They were like the Caribbean before a storm—blue and turquoise with gray shadows rolling underneath.

“Yes,” she said and stepped closer. Close enough that he could smell her skin, flowers and sweat, so earthy and feminine it immediately conjured thoughts of her naked on silk sheets. “But you stay out of our house. You stay out of our business. There’s a hotel in town. You can stay there. You arrive at eight and you leave at five. You can use the bathroom on the main floor and that’s it. No exceptions.”

He rocked back, stunned at the vehemence.

She’s hiding something, he thought, knowing it was the truth because he could taste it on her breath.

“Starting tomorrow, I’m taking a vacation week, so I’ll be here.”

Keeping an eye on you—she didn’t have to say it, and Matt didn’t know whether to laugh or be insulted.

She reached up and gathered that long silky fall of hair into a ponytail then she curled it around itself, tucking it and wrapping it until it was all but gone, vanished into a tight knot at the back of her head.

“And do not—” she actually poked him once in the chest with a blunt, naked nail, hard enough to hurt “—mess up my garden.”

Then, Savannah O’Neill, sexiest prison warden ever, was gone.

He stood there, dumbfounded by the complex reality of that woman in the photograph.

“I’m going to work!” He heard her yell inside the house and he turned, staring out at the jungle and ruins that made up his new job.

He nearly laughed, stunned at how this had all worked out.

He could wait for Vanessa to show up in her very own backyard.

Not sure of what he should do, he decided he’d wait for Margot to fill him in on the rest of the details. He stepped away from the house toward the ruins of the greenhouse, taking in the damage. It was far more extensive than he’d first seen.

He jostled one of the remaining posts of the structure and some stubborn piece of glass shattered onto the broken cobblestone at his feet.

Someone had gone to town on the building—and the plants that had been growing inside. Parts of it had been cleaned up, but the shards of pottery and dead orchids were piled in the corner.

And there were a lot of dead orchids.

“Working already?” Margot’s soft voice snapped him out of his focus and he jerked as if caught doing something he shouldn’t.

“I guess so,” he lied.

“It’s a lot of work, isn’t it?” she asked, and something in her tone had him glancing at her and seeing, for a brief moment, past her beauty and the sunshot diamonds to the sadness beneath her glitter. And he didn’t want to see that. At all. He didn’t want to feel anything besides suspicion for these women.

Well, suspicion and lust for Savannah perhaps. But no sympathy. No empathy.

He forced his attention back to the space he was supposed to salvage. All he saw was damage. Broken glass and twisted metal. A year ago he would have seen endless possibilities, now he saw nothing. Nothing but destruction.