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

“Don’t keep the queen waiting,” Savannah said, overly bright.

Unsure of what to say or do, he finally set down the towel and left the kitchen, his body getting cooler the farther he was from temptation.

SAVANNAH BRACED HER HANDS on the bottom of the sink, hot suds up to her elbows, and hung her head. Matt was potent medicine and he went right to her head, erasing every sane thought she had.

Researching him had to stop. As did the temptation to make out with him in the kitchen.

Even if he had told her the truth, even if he was so wounded she could see the scars in his eyes, even if he was charming and handsome and fun, he would still hurt her.

Because at some point, Matt would leave.

Eventually, everyone left her.

She finished the dishes and even managed to persuade Katie to help put away the dry ones before she rushed off to finish her puzzle with Margot.

Savannah poured herself a cold glass of water and was about to go upstairs when the music started.

Matt was playing the piano. “Ode to Joy,” which seemed sad and ironic considering the grief he carried. The music filled the hallways, brushed the ceilings, twisted and turned and curved around her heart until she was in knots.

She sat on the steps, powerless against Matt and his sad music.

MATT WOKE UP, BLINKING into hot sunshine, stunned to realize he’d actually slept.

And from the angle of the sun shining directly into his eyes, he’d say he overslept. He pulled on clean clothes and filled his thermos. At the last minute, he grabbed a notebook and pencil so he could sketch out the final pattern for the maze.

He’d been thinking in terms of right angles. Squares in squares. But last night he’d dreamt in circles.

Harder to pull off, but infinitely more interesting.

Once outside, he saw his kingdom had been overrun. The shed doors were open, the tools haphazardly laid out and Savannah, in cutoffs and a black tank top that hugged every curve and muscle in her body like a shadow, was in jeopardy of cutting off her own hand with the bush trimmers.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

She whirled, slicing the air with razor-sharp blades. “Hey, Matt. Since someone decided to sleep in, I thought I’d do a little work—”

He yanked the trimmers from her hands and put them on the ground, arranging things so they lay between the hoe and the ax.

It was stupid, this irrational proprietary urge he had. It wasn’t even his courtyard. It was hers. She could pave the damn thing if she wanted.

“I only trimmed the cypress,” she said, annoyed. “I’ve managed the middle courtyard for twenty years, it’s not like I’m going to ruin anything.”

You’re ruining everything, he thought.

“I’m used to working alone,” he said, trying to sound as unfriendly as possible.

“I understand,” she said, putting her hands on her impossibly thin waist. She really was like a willow. So beautiful, but strong. “That’s how I work, too.” She grabbed a thermos of coffee that had been resting in the grass and held it out to him. “Here. Peace.”

Part of him resisted, knowing that if he wanted her to keep her distance, this wasn’t exactly the way to go about it.

“It’s just coffee,” she said, again as if she could read his mind, and it was so oddly intimate, he couldn’t resist.

A great ache yawned inside of him, a loneliness.

I miss Jack, he realized. He missed having friends and people in his life. His father, the prince of thieves, sitting in the visiting room at Martinsville Prison so eager for company. Erica, bringing him coffee and office gossip while doing the job of twenty people. And Jack—

“You all right?” Savannah asked.

He blinked, coming back to earth. “Fine.” He took the coffee. “Thank you.”

“So,” Savannah said, looking around at the cleared-out courtyard. “What’s the plan, Mr. Architect of the Year?”

“How did you find that out?” He laughed. Wow, winning that award seemed like a million years ago. Almost as though it had happened to a different guy. It had been so important, coming as it had right before the opening. Publicity, he’d thought, for the project of a lifetime.