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

“I don’t know if he’s a drifter,” Savannah said, not entirely convinced he wasn’t. And frankly, not entirely convinced that Juliette wasn’t spot on in her assessment of Margot and Savannah.

“But he’s not staying at the house. He’s going to get a room at the Bonne Terre Inn.”

“He’s still a stranger,” Juliette said.

“Right, and he’s the only person who has answered that ad,” Savannah pointed out. “Everyone in town who could do the work knows we don’t have a big budget and that the job is huge.”

“I have vacation starting tomorrow—”

“And you’re going to spend it babysitting this guy and your courtyard?”

“No, actually, I’m going to spend most of it doing research on extreme religious rituals around the world for the Discovery Channel, but I’ll be home.”

“What do you know about this guy?” Juliette asked, brushing her suit jacket off her lean hips, revealing her gun and her whipcord build.

Juliette looked so masculine, such a change from the girl she’d been. The girl, a few years older than Savannah, who had seemed the epitome of Southern glamour. Like a Creole Liz Taylor or something. Juliette used to never wear pants, and never left the house without a thick coat of hot-pink lip gloss.

Savannah wondered how much her brother Tyler had to do with the change in Juliette. Of course, that was years ago and Juliette would take her head off for asking.

“I checked his references,” Savannah said, feeling confident until Juliette sniffed in disapproval. “And they were great.”

“References lie,” Juliette said.

“Give me some credit, Juliette. I’m a researcher. I searched his name on the Internet,” she said, “and Matt Howe, at least the Matt Howe doing work at my house, hasn’t been in the news for killing cats, or posting porn on the Web. He’s a nonentity.”

“Right, because the Internet is so reliable.” Juliette pulled her notebook from her pocket and hit the end of her ballpoint pen. “Matt Howe?”

Juliette’s pen scribbling across the lined paper added to the music of her library.

Juliette jabbed the notebook into her pocket. “What do you think of this guy, really?” Her eyes narrowed and Savannah shrugged.

“I don’t like him. I don’t want him in my house. But, I think he’s safe. I think he’s a good man.”

“You’ve thought that before,” Juliette whispered and Savannah flinched at the reminder. The reminder she didn’t need.

“And I learned my lesson about handsome strangers, Juliette.” She even managed to smile. “The O’Neills don’t do love.”

It was nearly imperceptible, but Juliette’s right eyelid flinched.

“Juliette, I’m so sorr—”

“You guys have that island thing down pat. No one gets on and no one gets off,” Juliette said. “At least not permanently.”

Savannah shrugged. It was easier being alone. Safer. She wasn’t going to apologize for it; it was a matter of survival.

“Margot managed to survive and some would say she’s had more than her share of love,” Juliette said.

“Business,” Savannah clarified. People got confused about Margot all the time, thinking she was a romantic. She wasn’t. She was a lusty capitalist with a penchant for the finer things in life. And men. “It was always business with Margot. And it’s business with Matt Howe. You can trust me on that.”

Juliette sniffed. “Okay, but I’m coming by tomorrow morning to check this guy out.”

“You’re welcome to,” Savannah thought of the leonine grace of the man. The sharp predatory focus in his eyes. The way he pulled his khaki pants up over a lean waist, watching her as if he could taste her on his tongue.

Male. So thrillingly masculine among the roses and moss.

She’d spent so long pretending she wasn’t a woman, pretending dark eyes and darker hair and a man with a knowing smile didn’t send her to some place hot and internal. Someplace reckless and totally, entirely, O’Neill.