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

“More so,” Matt answered. “They’re both beautiful. Ridiculously beautiful. I would marry him.” His honesty earned him a round of jokes about him in a white dress.

He had seconds, then thirds of the salad as he answered their questions about designing for the fabulously wealthy. Savannah brought out dishes of lime sherbet and Matt got Margot to tell him about her brief affair with a certain Bond actor.

“Let’s just say,” Margot said, eyebrow cocked as she stood to clear the dishes, “he took the James Bond thing very seriously. If you know what I mean.”

“Margot,” Savannah groaned, picking up a stack of bowls and taking them into the kitchen.

“What does she mean?” Katie asked, her eyes dancing between the adults.

“Here,” Matt said, standing up to grab the rest of the dishes before Margot got to them. “Let me help.”

Margot grabbed his hand and turned it over. The blisters and scrapes on his palm looked red and angry in the bright light of the chandelier. “You’re doing enough,” Margot said softly. “I don’t know what demon has possessed—”

He pulled his hands free and grabbed the plates anyway. “I’m fine,” he said. “Let me make my mother proud and clear the table.”

Margot lifted her hands in surrender and sat.

“Well, then,” she said, “perhaps we can go back to our game? Katie and I have grown bored playing with just the two of us.”

“Sure,” he said, happy at the thought.

“No.” Katie stood. “I won’t play with him.” She ran from the room.

“Katie!” Margot called after her.

“No,” he said, something dark and heavy sitting on his chest. Regret? Grief? Probably both. “Don’t worry about it. I’ve still got a lot of work to do. It’s probably best.”

Matt grabbed the empty salad bowl and took it into the kitchen. There was no dishwasher, and Savannah was filling the sink with bubbles.

“I’ll wash, you dry?” she asked.

He met her gaze; so blue and careful. Cautious, as if she expected rejection.

Suddenly the kitchen was too small and he wanted badly to escape to the courtyard. To be alone. The temptation of her was nearly too much, but in the end he merely nodded and stepped aside so she could stand at the sink.

Because he was a glutton for punishment, and because a few hours in the company of these women made him feel lighter. Cleaner. The ghosts and their dirty hands were leaving him alone.

They worked silently, each of them careful not to touch one another in handing off dishes. Not that it particularly mattered. Touching or not, he wanted her so bad he could taste it. Like lime sherbet on his tongue.

“Tell me something,” she said, handing him a dinner plate. “Did you lie about your mother?”

He knew exactly what she meant—that night in the library when she’d laid herself so bare.

I should lie now, he thought. Tell her that everything he said that night had been a lie, that it had all been designed to get her to talk to him.

He opened his mouth to do it, to drive her away for good.

But he glanced down at her exposed neck. The pale skin stretched over fine muscles. The wisps of blond hair there, too short to be pulled into a ponytail. He wanted to touch that hair, see if it was as soft as it looked. He wanted to press his lips to the dip at the top of her spine. He wanted to curl his arms around her taut body, cup her breasts in his hands, press himself along her back.

He wanted to wrap himself around her and never let go.

“Nothing I said that night was a lie,” he answered. “My mom, Dad—” he stumbled slightly “—Jack. All of it was the truth.”

She blinked at him, her eyes warm, her lips so full and pink he wanted to chew on them.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

He leaned toward her, ready to take her up on the invitation in her trembling lips and liquid eyes. He remembered how she’d felt in his arms, how she had the power to banish his ghosts, and he suddenly wanted that again. Craved it with every aching and sore muscle in his body.

Solace, she offered solace.

“Matt!” Margot called from the other room and Savannah jerked away, scrubbing with renewed vigor.

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