Page 44

The Temptation of Savannah O'Neill Molly O Keefe 2022/8/3 13:52:51

“So.” He nearly laughed. “That’s not normal, Savannah. It seemed like you two were hiding something. Something of value.”

He turned to Margot. “Is there any chance that Vanessa might have stolen the gems then hidden them here?”

“But with the break-ins—”

“I would know if my mother was here!” she cried, then sucked in a deep breath, feeling totally out of control. “Or if there were gems hidden in my house.”

Margot nodded in agreement.

“Savannah, please,” he whispered, “understand, I think that there—”

“Get out,” she snapped, thrusting her finger toward the door. “We don’t know where my mother is and we certainly—” she laughed because it was ludicrous and frankly it was either laugh or scream “—don’t know anything about your father and stolen gems.”

“I’ll leave,” he said. “I will, I just want to apologize.”

“We heard you,” she said. “Now go.”

“Wait a second,” Juliette said, stepping into the heated air between them. “You said your father was arrested seven years ago. If Vanessa was at the drop-off seven years ago, why are you here now? Not then?”

“My father just told me the truth about having a partner and…Vanessa’s involvement in the theft. He’d been taking the blame himself for seven years.”

Savannah reached the end of her rope. “Who the hell cares?” she cried. “No offense, Juliette, but the particulars don’t matter.” She stalked up to Matt, getting as close as she could stomach. “I don’t want you here.”

“You should know, Savannah.” His eyes were sad, careful, and suddenly she knew she needed to brace herself. “Your mother has been in New Orleans most of the past five years.”

Savannah swayed on numb legs and looked to Margot, who sat cold and still as a statue. “Did you know that?” she whispered.

Margot shook her head.

What did it matter, she wondered, hysteria buzzing along her nerve endings. New Orleans? The Moon? Six feet underground? Her mother was gone to her.

But somehow, as much as she wished it didn’t matter, it did. That Vanessa was only a few hundred miles away stung like salt in an old wound.

“I’m sorry, Savannah,” he whispered. “I know—”

“You don’t know anything.” She suddenly turned and left because she couldn’t stand to look at him any longer.

Pulling back her hair, wearing her sternest clothes, surrounding her heart in cement—none of it worked. She was broken. Hurt. And all she wanted was him gone.

MATT WATCHED Savannah leave with his gut in his shoes. She was a different woman this morning. Cold and hard, worse even than the prison warden. She was an ice queen, the warm vibrant woman who’d laughed and kissed with him last night miles underneath her frigid exterior.

You did this, he told himself. Because you were so stupidly hell-bent on your own course you didn’t see the truth, just like you were with Jack and the buildings in St. Louis.

Just like he always was.

What is wrong with me? he wondered, staring blindly out the door. What is missing in me that I can’t see the pain I cause?

That he’d hurt Savannah, adding her name to his list of people he’d managed to wound in his own blindness, was an ache in his chest.

If he could pull off his skin, rip out his memories, he’d do it. He’d pay in his own blood for the hurt he’d caused everyone he touched.

He wished he could change the last twenty-four hours.

“I didn’t mean to hurt her,” he whispered, knowing Savannah’s two guard dogs were hungry for his flesh.

“Sure,” Juliette said, her sarcasm like being raked over hot coals. “Because women love it when you lie to them and then sleep with them.”

“We didn’t sleep together.”

“Well, you did something,” she said. Juliette stalked toward him, every inch of her a police chief. Her hands on her waist—inches, he noticed, from her gun. “Do as she says,” Juliette whispered, her green eyes like steel. “Leave before you bring any more trouble to this house.”