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The Temptation of Savannah O'Neill Molly O Keefe 2022/8/3 13:52:41

Something dented in Matt’s chest, a foundation trembled and he wanted to reach out and touch the fragile elegant bones of her wrist. Hold her hand.

Ruthlessly, he looked around the room, turning himself off to the emotions, embracing the chill that lived inside of him.

Do not get attached to these women, he told himself.

“Thank you,” Savannah said and he swung around to look at her, made speechless for a moment by her beauty, by the look in her eyes. “For what you said to those officers.”

There was something slightly different in her, a fierceness transformed. It was as if a light had gone on in a dark house. His conscience, quiet for so long, muted and grieving, woke up.

Don’t do this, he thought. Don’t look at me like that. Don’t let me in, I’m only here to hurt you.

“No problem,” he said.

“Who are you?” a small voice asked, and he turned to see the girl giving him the once-over.

Matt’s lip lifted at the quicksilver change in topics. “My name is Matt, I’m going to help fix the back garden.”

Katie’s eyes narrowed and she harrumphed, looking as skeptical as a young girl could, which, actually, was pretty damn skeptical.

“He’s going to be staying here. In the sleeping porch. At night,” Margot said, and she might as well have shot off a cannon into the silent room.

SAVANNAH LOOKED DUMBSTRUCK. She blinked. Blinked again. Matt resisted taking a step back, away from her.

“I’m sorry?” she finally said.

“He’s staying,” Margot repeated, showing a whole lot of that steel under her magnolia exterior. “I know, I know.” She waved her hands in Savannah’s face as it grew stormier by the second. “You told him to stay at the Inn, but I told him he could stay on the sleeping porch and frankly, after what’s happened, I think it’s a damn good idea to have a man around here.”

“What?” Savannah cried. “This is not the Wild West, Margot.”

“No, but it’s our home and I’m eighty and Katie’s eight and you’re a damn librarian. We’re about as defenseless as it gets.”

“We could get a gun,” Katie said and both Savannah and Margot spun to stare at her. “I’m just saying,” she added sheepishly.

“We’re not getting a gun,” Margot said. “Matt is sleeping on the porch. End of story.”

“Can I talk to you?” Savannah said through her teeth. “Privately.”

“No, you can’t. You’re too wrapped up in the past and the last man who stayed here.”

Savannah went stiff and pale as ice and Matt had to fight himself not to show a reaction. What last man? And what did he do?

“You can’t see that this is a perfect solution to our problem,” Margot said.

Savannah spun toward Matt, not even pretending to smile or be gracious. “Can you give us a minute?”

“Stay right there,” Margot said, pointing a finger to the floor in front of Matt’s feet. He wouldn’t have moved even if the earth opened up and tried to swallow him. “Look, we’re targets around here. The police don’t much care for us for a bunch of different reasons, not the least of which is they’re giant dickheads—sorry, Katie.”

“It’s okay,” Katie said, as though she was taking in the greatest show on earth.

“The police chief is good to us, but she’s got a whole town to take care of. So, we’re pretty much on our own,” Margot said. “Savannah’s got a problem with men staying here—”

“Don’t you dare, Margot,” Savannah snapped.

“Because we’ve been alone a long time.” She held up one elegant finger. “By choice, mind you. Most of the time men are only good for two things, and one of them is buying me drinks.”

Matt choked back a laugh. What in the world had he stumbled into?

“But…I’m scared,” Margot admitted. “We all are.” The air in the room seemed to change, a heavy darkness filling the corners, creeping along the floor, the specter of what might have happened last night. Margot’s eyes, suddenly damp, turned to Savannah. “I think if Matt were to stay, maybe we could all sleep instead of worrying who was going to break into our house, or might come looking for us in the night.”