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The Temptation of Savannah O'Neill Molly O Keefe 2022/8/3 13:52:53

“What’s your police brain thinking?”

“Either, something happened recently that got Matt all fired up and sent him down here like a late vigilante—”

Juliette grabbed another bag of candy. “Or he wants the jewels for himself.”

THE SUN HAD SET a long time ago and shadows chased Savannah through the kitchen that smelled like the gumbo they’d had for dinner.

There was a plastic container of leftovers in the fridge and she could grab it and take it out to him as easily as not. But she chose not.

He didn’t deserve gumbo.

She found him in the dark twilight, working on the last of the greenhouse, carefully sliding glass panes into place. His back rippled, the small muscles of his arms flexed and shifted as he built a house of glass.

He had lost weight—the side of his face that she could see was thin. His cheekbones looked like they could cut steaks.

Not that she cared, but seriously, they didn’t need him passing out or worse.

“You should eat,” she said and he jumped, nearly dropping a pane on his feet.

“Christ,” he breathed. “You shouldn’t sneak up on people.”

She crossed her arms over her chest, and tried very hard to convince herself that she didn’t want to touch him. Didn’t want to stroke back the sweaty hunk of hair that fell over his forehead, practically into his eyes.

“I have a question,” she said.

He grunted, picking up another glass square, unwrapping it from its protective shell. His hands were raw, and a scrape along his palm was bleeding, probably going to get infected.

“Are you here because you want the jewels for yourself?”

That got his attention and he straightened to his full height. He was a big man, over six feet. Strong, his T-shirt clinging to hard, lean muscles. Her nerve endings remembered what her flesh had felt like against those muscles, how all that contact had sent an electrical charge through the dormant parts of her body. Waking her up. Turning her on.

“No,” he said, wiping his hands on his shirt, leaving smears of dirt and blood. “I don’t care about the gems.”

“Where are your gloves?” she snapped, angry that he was dumb enough to do this work without protection and angry that she cared.

His lips twisted slightly. “Yes, boss.”

He slid the glass home.

“So if you’re not here for the diamond and ruby, why come seven years after the fact?”

He bent and picked up a broken pane and cursed under his breath before carefully setting the pieces into what she assumed was the junk pile. Concrete, glass, bits of brick and stacks of ruin, like terrible, shattered buildings.

His silence stretched and pulled until Savannah snapped. “You lied your way into our home. We have a right to know.”

He breathed something she didn’t hear as he bent to pick up another pane.

“Justice!” he yelled, glass shattering at their feet. She jumped at the sound and the sudden fury in his voice.

“Dad didn’t do the crime alone, his hands weren’t the only ones dirty.”

“But it’s seven years too late—”

“Guilt should be punished.”

The courtyard rang with his voice and she stepped back, stunned. Something else was at work here, she could see it in his face. Feel it in the air around him, smell it like sulfur and blood.

“I’m sorry,” he said, his voice suspiciously calm. But she could see, in the moonlight, his heartbeat throbbing in his neck, as if he’d been running for miles.

“Are you okay?” she asked, and hated herself for asking.

“Sure,” he answered, but he was lying. An idiot could see he was lying.

She had questions. Plenty of them. A thin river of concern running through them all but, finally, she decided to listen to herself.

She walked to the house but stopped at the door. She tore chunks of chipped white paint from the door frame, flicking them away with her thumb.

“Are you married?” she asked.

A sound like laughter or a growl rumbled up his throat and she felt it in her spine, her belly.