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The Temptation of Savannah O'Neill Molly O Keefe 2022/8/3 13:52:39

He felt, looking at all this ruin, a certain kinship with the courtyard.

“It’s not too bad,” he lied.

“This used to be my favorite place,” Margot said, her fingers touching the edge of an old worktable that had been smashed.

He bit back a groan. Don’t, he thought. Don’t open up to the hired help.

She gestured halfheartedly at the dead plants. “I grew orchids.”

“You will again.” This lame platitude sounded flat on his tongue, like a lie but different. Worse, somehow. Because she brightened, bought into the false hope he hadn’t intended to give.

“Why would someone do this?” he asked, watching her carefully, pretending to be casual. “Was there something of value in here?”

“In a greenhouse?” Margot asked, sliding him a sideways look.

He couldn’t read her private grin, but it made him think there had been something worth smashing a greenhouse for in those pots.

He shrugged. “Seems like someone went to a lot of trouble over some orchids.”

“It’s a tradition around here, I’m afraid.” She turned gem-bright eyes to him. “The O’Neills are a bit of a target. That’s why Savannah can seem a bit—” she shrugged “—cool.”

This insight was totally unwelcome. But it explained a lot about the prickly Savannah.

“You mean this sort of destruction happens a lot?” he asked, stunned at the thought.

“It’s summer break,” Margot said. “High school students get bored in a small town and we’ve managed to provide enough entertainment to become somewhat…legendary.”

“Why don’t you leave?”

Margot blinked at him. “This is my home,” she said as if he’d suggested she cut off her ear. “How could I leave?”

Why would you stay? he thought. But then, maybe that was his problem. It had been too easy for him to leave everything behind.

“Savannah said I had the job,” he said.

Margot’s eyes went wide for a second, surprise showing clearly on her face before she carefully erased it. Hid it. Those eyes were bottomless, a place where secrets lived.

These women know something.

“Well, if Savannah says so, it must be true.” Margot tipped her head. “Our budget is three thousand dollars, I know it’s not much, but you can stay in the sleeping porch—”

“I’m pretty sure staying in the sleeping porch was not part of Savannah’s plan. She mentioned a hotel in town.”

Margot smiled, her eyes canny, and Matt found himself liking the old lady. “It’s my home, Matt. You are welcome to stay in the porch.”

Right. Like he was going to get caught in the middle of this family squabble. “I’ll stay in the hotel tonight,” he said. “Let you break the news to her.”

“Oh, Matt, I can tell already you are a wise man.” She tilted her head, her sapphire eyes studying him. “Then, I guess the only question is, do you want the job?”

Matt tried not to smile too confidently. Too broadly. He tried, actually, not to crow with pleasure and satisfaction. “Absolutely.”

EVERYONE THOUGHT libraries were quiet. Savannah never understood that. In all the years she’d spent hiding, studying, teaching and working in libraries, she’d found each and every one of them loud. Filled with sound, actually. Like one of those seashells you pressed to your ear.

There was an endless ocean of sound in the Bonne Terre Public Library.

The click and whir of the big black ceiling fans. The silky brush of paper over the gleaming oak counters. The hum of computers. The scratch of pencils. The whisper of shoes across the old wood floors. On the second floor, a toddler shrieked and a mother quickly shushed him. There was the quiet beat of her heart and, of course, the not-so-quiet whispering of the high school students at the computer bank.

Owen Johns and his gang.

It was always Owen Johns and his gang.

Summer school had been moved from the high school to the library so they could finally fix the roof of the gymnasium. This meant Savannah had been looking at the smirking faces of Owen Johns, Garrett Watson and their various hangers-on for a week.