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The Temptation of Savannah O'Neill Molly O Keefe 2022/8/3 13:52:56

“What stuff?” Katie asked, blinking her eyes at Savannah.

“Don’t be cute,” Savannah snapped. “I’ve let you run wild around here for too long. Now, I want you to stop with the water balloons and the attitude.”

“We thought he was our friend and he lied to us, Mom!”

Oh, how to explain to her daughter the many shades of gray. “I know.” She sighed. “But—”

“He made you cry!” Katie yelled. “And now you’re out there like he’s a friend.”

Savannah realized there was something else at work here, something more than retaliating at Matt for lying to them.

“We don’t need friends, Mom! We just need each other, right? That’s what you’ve always said. All we need is each other.”

Savannah blinked, stunned. “Katie, honey, it’s not always going to be just us.”

“Why not?” Katie asked. “It’s been you, me and Margot for a long time and we’re doing fine. Why do you want him here, anyway?”

Savannah had no answer. She couldn’t even totally explain it to herself. But she liked him here. The past few hours, working silently side by side with him, had been the warmest in her memory.

She wanted to kiss him. She wanted to pull that strong body against hers and feel small. Feel cared for. Womanly and precious.

She wanted Matt, with his lies and guilt, she wanted him still. More, maybe, now that she knew the truth.

“You like him,” Katie cried as though it was the crime of the century, the murder of innocents.

“I do,” Savannah said, “but that doesn’t mean I don’t like you. Or—”

“Well, I don’t like you!” She ran off down the dark hallway, her feet thundering up the stairs.

“She’s just like you” a deep male voice behind her said. A deep male voice Savannah hadn’t heard in far too long.

“Carter!” she cried, whirling to face her big brother. One look at his handsome face, so strong and fierce, like a profile you’d see on an ancient coin, and she was ten years old again.

Tears suddenly burned at her eyes. The fact that he’d been gone so long, out of their lives, felt like a cut deep through her.

“It’s been so long,” she breathed, hearing the accusation in her voice.

Carter blinked, the charming smile slid off his face. “I’ve asked you to come visit,” he said. “It’s your choice—”

“This is your home,” she said.

You are supposed to be here, she thought. You are supposed to stay. We were all supposed to stay.

But no one ever stayed. Ever.

Carter’s smile was sad, but his arms opened and she stepped right into them. “I missed you, Savvy.”

MATT COULD FEEL Katie up in that tree, despite the fact that there were no water balloons falling on his head. He could feel her like a storm coming down from Canada—cold winds and icy rain.

“I know you’re mad at me,” he said, sticking his shovel in the ground and propping his hands on its end.

“You don’t know anything!” Katie screamed, water balloons pelting the ground and exploding at his feet.

Katie swung down from the tree like some wild redheaded monkey. “You don’t know anything about my mom!” At her rage Matt stepped back.

“Okay, okay, hold on.”

“You made her cry!” She swatted at his arms and legs and he attempted to step back but he landed in the trench and fell back, hauling Katie in with him. They both scrambled in the dirt and some of the steam leaked out of Katie.

He rolled onto his back, looked up at white clouds stretched thin across a blue sky.

“I didn’t mean to,” he said, turning his head to look at the girl. “I never meant to hurt her.” He ducked his head to better see her face. “Or you.”

She sniffed and brushed her nose with her forearm.

“Tell you what,” he said. “Tonight I’ll show you how I beat you at poker.”

She sniffed again and looked at him, her eyes so like her mother’s, damning. “No,” she said. She stood, pinning him to the ground with a whole bunch of eight-year-old anger. “If you don’t want to hurt us, then leave. Right now. It’ll only be worse if you stay.”