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

Savannah and Margot looked at each other for a long time, the kind of silent communication he understood some people had with each other. He turned away, the moment suddenly too intimate to bear witness to, especially when he was lying to them.

“Do you want to stay here?” Savannah asked him.

“I want to help,” he said, keeping his real motivation to himself. His quest for justice was his little secret, the heartbeat that kept him moving, and more access to this house and its secrets would only be a good thing. “It’s why you hired me. And if I spent the night, I could get a lot more work done.”

“We can’t pay you more,” Savannah said. “But with the money you’d be saving—”

“It works out fine. Truth is,” he said with a shrug, unsure of where these words were coming from and why he was saying them, “I don’t sleep much. So, it really doesn’t matter.”

“Fine,” Savannah said, squeezing her hands together, but not before Matt saw them tremble. “It’s settled. Matt, welcome to the Manor.”

KATIE SPENT THE MORNING on Savannah’s lap, which didn’t bother her mother one bit. Savannah was actually dueling with the instinct to somehow chain her daughter to her side.

If something had happened… She squelched the thought, as she had a thousand times already this morning, and pressed a kiss to her daughter’s head. The sun was sliding past high noon and fear and worry were beginning to chase each other in small circles in her stomach.

What nightmare would tonight bring?

She already knew she wouldn’t be sleeping. Probably not for the next few nights. And not only because of the break-in.

There was a man in her house.

Margot played dirty. She always did. Going behind Savannah’s back that way and giving Matt the sleeping porch—classic Margot maneuvering. But Savannah couldn’t argue this time. Because Margot was right. Things were different around the Manor. The pranks, if they were high school pranks, had turned ugly. Suspicious. Having someone keeping watch was smart.

“We can’t even play hide-and-seek,” Katie moaned, looking out the window over Savannah’s printer to the courtyard below. “That man is there.”

Savannah tried not to look, but Matt was a magnet and she had all the willpower of iron shavings.

The gray T-shirt clinging to his back was nearly black with sweat, and his dark brown hair was wet and thick against his strong neck. Through her open window it seemed the wind carried his scent to her, sweat, sunshine and wood.

The urge to close her eyes and inhale, to stick out her tongue just a little bit and taste the air that had touched him nearly overcame her.

She’d been in control of these sudden cravings, this outrageous lust that had taken root in her body, but at some point midmorning, Matt had put on glasses.

Which added a spice to Matt that was infinitely appealing. At least to Savannah. The librarian in her liked bookish men. Bookish men with the shoulders and biceps of men used to doing hard work.

This was worse than inappropriate. These ridiculous feelings she had for him were flat-out wrong. Wrong because he worked for her and wrong because he was a stranger and wrong because…well, just wrong.

He was going to be staying here. Downstairs. A hundred yards from where she slept. It had been years since someone other than Katie and Margot had shared this house with her.

She didn’t know if she was grateful for his presence or sick over it.

“Yes, he is there,” she said. And oddly, the thought was comforting. As well as really unnerving. And a little exciting.

He was a guard dog. A big one. And considering the events of the morning, she’d even say he was a good one.

“I thought he was going to punch Officer Jones in the face,” bloodthirsty Katie said, her eyes sparkling. “Pow.” She illustrated a hard little punch with her closed fist.

Savannah caught it and kissed the little knuckles, hard and smooth like diamonds under flesh. “It was a bit intense, wasn’t it?”

Savannah had thought the same. As she’d stood there, watching Matt, a stranger to them, jump to their defense, she’d actually wished he would hit Officer Jones. Officer Jones who apparently still hadn’t gotten over his high school dumping at Vanessa’s hands.