And in the days since the Manor had been violated, their smirks were smirkier, their eyes as they watched her a little too smug.
She saw it in their eyes, the sour glee in their smiles, the dark triumph that wafted off them like stink from garbage. They’d torn apart her courtyard, her grandmother’s orchids. Those boys had taken black spray paint to their stone walls, forcing her hand, and now there was a man at the Manor.
Matt Howe was in her home, in her courtyard, and Matt Howe made her heart pound and her stomach tremble and it was nearly intolerable.
And it was all Owen’s and Garrett’s fault.
She knew it with an instinct she didn’t question. The O’Neill instinct—never wrong. The O’Neill impulses, on the other hand, too often lured by pounding hearts and trembling stomachs, were always disastrously wrong.
She stood at the counter and checked in the books from the overnight drop box. She traced the gilt beak of Mother Goose before shelving the faded red book on the trolley.
Her hands didn’t shake. Her face didn’t change, but she stood there, listening to their whispers, catching words like “she had a kid” and “he was married.” She threw them, like logs, onto the fire of her anger.
She stood there as she had for years, calm and cool, pretending she didn’t hear the whispers, and contemplated her revenge.
Not that she would take it. She’d learned her lesson about vengeance and acting on these O’Neill impulses. She’d learned it too well.
Ten years ago, maybe, she’d have enacted revenge. But now it was just an imaginary exercise. A highly satisfying one.
A letter to their parents, perhaps? Regarding some obscenely overdue books of a high monetary value? Good, but not quite enough.
“You watching the love triangle?” whispered Janice, her assistant and Keeper of All Things Even Slightly Gossip-y.
“Love triangle?” Savannah whispered, keeping her eyes on Owen, Garrett and Owen’s girlfriend.
“Owen’s girlfriend,” Janice whispered in the juicy tones of a soap addict, “I don’t know her name, but I’ve been calling her The Cheerleader.”
Savannah laughed; it was true, the redhead seemed incomplete without pom-poms.
“But The Cheerleader has been watching Garrett when Owen isn’t looking.”
“Really?” Savannah asked.
“And Garrett is not looking away.”
Now that had the makings of revenge.
The phone rang and Janice waddled away to answer it while Savannah contemplated warm thoughts of love triangles blowing up.
“Hey!” Fingers snapped in front of Savannah’s face and she jerked out of her fantasy to find her good friend Juliette Tremblant, looking stormy and all too police-chiefy across the counter.
“Hey, Juliette.” Savannah smiled in the face of Juliette’s stern expression. She was always, always happy to see her friend—even when Juliette was coming around to chastise her. “What’s up?”
“What’s up?” Juliette repeated, incredulously. Her black eyebrows practically hit her hairline. “You just hired some stranger to work at the Manor?”
“Word travels fast,” Savannah said, amazed anew at the Bonne Terre interest in all things O’Neill. After twenty years she’d stopped being furious. Now she was merely irritated.
“One of my guys heard it from Wayne Smith who heard it from his wife who was taking her morning walk down your road and saw Margot and some stranger on the front porch shaking hands.”
“Shh!” Owen and Garrett said, over-loud, over-annoying in mockery of Savannah’s librarian battle cry.
“Excuse me?” Juliette turned to the boys, the badge clipped to the belt of her pants gleaming in the milky morning sunlight.
The boys went white and Savannah tried hard not to smile.
“Sorry, Chief Tremblant,” they chorused and quickly returned to their work and summer school teacher.
“I need a badge,” Savannah whispered.
“What you need is to have your head checked,” Juliette said, her voice lower. “I called Margot this morning, to see if it was true and she said you’d hired a drifter. I guess living alone in that mausoleum has finally gotten to your heads, because that’s not just notorious, it’s dangerous.”