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The Temptation of Savannah O'Neill Molly O Keefe 2022/8/3 13:52:46

And Matt had brought it back in.

Like a draft through a cracked door, all sorts of things had come in with Matt Howe.

Desire was curling around her like a hot breeze, tighter and tighter until she couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe without wondering what that bead of sweat against his neck might taste like, what his hair would feel like between her fingers. His body, strong and—

“Mom?” Katie asked and Savannah turned to look at the little girl, startled and embarrassed by her thoughts. “Do you like Matt?”

“Do you?” she asked, hot with discomfort.

Katie shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“That’s how I feel, too,” she said and pressed her lips to Katie’s forehead.

THE HOURS UNTIL MIDNIGHT crawled and Matt wondered, watching the clouds over the moon, what exactly Margot had in store for him.

Luckily, he wasn’t conflicted about going. He was going—no doubt about it. This was his chance to get a look at the room, and better yet, to spend some time with Margot, see what he might be able to pry out of her.

And, the truth was, he was bored.

The dark hallways didn’t so much as creak as he walked through them, avoiding the rotten spots he’d discovered. The dim light from under Margot’s door guided him through the dark house.

At the door, unsure if he was about to be the object of a twisted Mrs. Robinson situation, he took a deep breath and knocked, the door creaking open slightly under his fist.

“Come in, my dear boy,” Margot said, and he stepped the rest of the way in the room to find her sitting at a table, shuffling through a deck of cards. A cigar was smoking in a crystal ashtray at her elbow.

Behind her was nothing but shadows, the walls black blurs.

“Drink?” she asked, pointing to the tray of bottles on her dresser.

He shook his head. “What…ah—”

It didn’t look like seduction, but he wasn’t entirely sure of what it did look like.

“Poker,” she said, the cards roaring as she shuffled them. “You’re here to play poker.” She quirked an eyebrow at him. “Perhaps you were thinking I brought you here for something else?”

He grinned, feeling a blush climb his cheeks. “Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect.”

“Five card,” she said. “You can expect five card and as soon as—”

The door opened behind him and he nearly groaned, thinking he was about to be scolded by Savannah again, but it was Katie who came creeping in the door.

“She’s asleep,” Katie told her grandmother. “She snores.”

“So do you,” Margot said. Katie climbed up on a chair, setting three cookies on the corner of the table like thousand-dollar chips.

“Five card stud,” Margot said, beginning to deal.

“Threes and nines wild,” Katie added.

Margot stopped shuffling. “Aren’t we past the training wheels?”

“One game with wild cards. Just one.”

Margot sighed. “Fine. Threes and nines wild.”

A long-standing, backroom poker game, he realized, taking in the slightly ridiculous sight of the eight-year-old girl and eighty-year-old woman, eyeing each other over their hands.

A small pile of cards grew in front of the empty seat and Margot paused, both of them turning to stare at him.

“You in?” Katie asked.

“Does your mother know you do this?” he asked Katie.

Katie and Margot laughed. “No way,” Katie said.

“Savannah has strong feelings about gambling,” Margot added.

“And drinking,” Katie supplied.

“All things O’Neill,” Margot said, lifting the cigar, the smoke curling across her face, obscuring her expression.

The hair lifted on the back of his neck. “Are there things about the O’Neills that warrant strong feelings?”

“Mom says we have to rise above our roots,” Katie said.

“What are your roots?” he asked, his hands tapping a nervous tattoo against his pants leg.

“Sit down, boy,” Margot said a smile as old as Eve on her face. “Maybe you’ll find out.”

Matt glanced between them, the aging mistress to musicians and politicians and the eight-year-old daughter of a woman he was growing increasingly fascinated by.