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The Temptation of Savannah O'Neill Molly O Keefe 2022/8/3 13:52:55

Katie stuck out her tongue.

“Don’t,” Savannah said in her stern mommy voice, and Katie flounced to her seat at Margot’s right.

The atmosphere in the room was strange and volatile. Cold winds, warm breezes and a great dark cloud where Matt sat.

Savannah had no clue how to make any of it better.

“Now,” Margot said, her smile wide and gracious. “Isn’t this nice.”

Matt could not take his eyes off Savannah. This version of her, slightly messy, almost undone—God, it was such a surprise. Such a turn-on.

He felt like a fourteen-year-old boy. And, even in his exhausted state, his body was reacting like a fourteen-year-old’s and he wanted to dump the cold Thai noodle salad right into his lap.

“Are you enjoying the dinner, Matt?” Margot asked.

“It’s delicious,” he said, and it was, he’d just prefer to eat Savannah. But he lifted a cold shrimp and a bunch of herby green things to his mouth.

“It’s one of Savannah’s specialties,” Margot said, inclining her head toward Savannah where she sat at the foot of the table. Seriously, Margot was, like, old-world charming. They simply didn’t make them like her anymore.

“No, it’s not,” Savannah said, laughing slightly. She turned to Matt, her blue eyes hesitantly warm, cautious but friendly. In a glance, he realized that’s exactly how she was—a warm fire, banked.

Suddenly he wished she’d answered that question about Katie’s father, because every instinct told him he was the man who’d banked her fire.

Which was a crime, really.

“I don’t cook,” Savannah said. “She’s trying to match-make.”

He choked on the shrimp.

“Don’t worry,” Savannah said, shooting her grandmother a knock-it-off look. “It’s compulsive. Like lying. She can’t help herself.”

“It’s a gift,” Margot said.

“A curse,” Savannah interjected.

“Tell that to John F. Kennedy.”

“John F. who?” Matt asked.

“Kennedy,” Margot said.

“Margot,” Savannah said, taking the reins of the story, “claims to have introduced JFK to Marilyn Monroe.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he said, laughing despite himself.

“Hardly,” Margot answered. “I knew Marilyn through Arthur—”

“Miller?” he asked, astounded.

“He was a good friend for a number of years,” Margot answered with a glint in her eye.

“She’s always been a patron of the arts,” Savannah said with a wicked smile.

“No need to be crude,” Margot chastised. “He was a dear friend and Marilyn was a lovely, if slightly tortured girl.”

“But how did you know the president?” Matt asked.

“He was a friend, too. Although that was before he was president.”

His fork clattered to his plate. He’d known she’d run in high and varied circles, but JFK? He glanced at Savannah, wondering if he wasn’t being put on. Just a little.

As if she read his mind, she nodded her head. “All true, I’m afraid. She put the Notorious in the O’Neills.”

“Not all by myself,” Margot said, her look pointed, and Savannah wiped her mouth discreetly and focused on eating.

The tension in the room returned, prickly and aware.

Forks hitting plates and Katie quietly slurping noodles were the only noises. Savannah’s warmth was all but gone; a chill blew off her. Blew off all of them. He realized he should leave, so the women could go back to doing what they normally did when he wasn’t here to ruin dinner.

But the sleeping porch had no appeal right now. None. Hot, dark and lonely. And sitting here was—well, it was fun.

He had no reason to stay other than he enjoyed it. And it had been a long long time since his only motivation was enjoyment.

“I designed a house for a certain famous couple,” he said, the words falling out of him and popping the tension. Three pairs of feminine and fascinated eyes swung to him. Even Katie put her hostility away as they cajoled the names of the pair from him.

“Really?” Savannah asked.

“Do tell,” Margot insisted. “Is he as handsome in real life?”