She left, running past the cypress into the shadows at the back of the courtyard.
Guilt and loss, terrible things he’d done to people because he was blind, obsessed, these things were built like a brick wall around him. The whole world on the other side. For six months he’d been building this wall, craving this solitude.
He stood and brushed off his pants, glancing toward the house in time to see through one of the windows Savannah hurl herself into a man’s arms.
Something dark and gritty rolled through him.
But then the man turned and he recognized Carter O’Neill from the surveillance photos.
But the gritty bit—like dirt and stones rattling through his guts and blood—stayed, reminding him that he had pushed away and hurt everyone who would welcome him like that.
Especially Savannah, and he felt the loss like a punch in the stomach.
“I GOT YOUR E-MAIL,” Carter said, keeping his arm tucked tight around Savannah as they walked through the halls. Savannah didn’t let go of Carter. Wouldn’t for the world. He was here. Her brother was back.
“Before you get upset,” Savannah said, pulling him into the kitchen because she was starving. “Margot is not quite as sick as I might have made out in my e-mail.”
“Really?” Carter asked, grinning as he leaned against the counter.
“She’s healthy as a damn horse. And Katie is not threatening to run away to see you.”
“Somehow I figured. Where is Margot?”
“Church?” Carter asked, astonished. Understandable, since Margot had never been one for religion. She’d always said that she sizzled when the priests splashed the holy water.
“Her latest is apparently a believer.”
“This is the guy who took her on that cruise?”
“The same. She spends every Sunday with him and about once a month she’s gone for a few days. They travel.”
“A multimillionaire believer with a mistress?”
“Companion,” Savannah corrected, using Margot’s steel-and-petal tone. “Mistress is so gauche.”
Carter laughed. “Only in Bonne Terre.”
“Please,” Savannah scoffed. “Like you don’t have worse in the big city.”
“You heard from Tyler?” he asked, changing the subject.
She smiled, nodded. “He sent a huge bouquet of flowers when he won that poker thing.”
“I got a box of cigars,” Carter said.
“Sure, you know Tyler. Money, women, good times. That’s all that matters.”
“If you talk to him like that, no wonder he doesn’t come visit.”
“Tyler doesn’t come visit because he’s too busy being the big man, Savannah.” He scrubbed a hand over his face, and she was reminded of how much he used to worry about his siblings when they were still with their mother. The way he cared. “Tyler’s not the boy we knew. Not anymore.”
Savannah wanted to press for more details, but she let it go. She only had Carter for a little while, and she didn’t want to spend that time fighting.
“Things seem to be going well for you,” Savannah said, watching him out of the corner of her eye as she grabbed an apple from the fridge. “Mayor Pro Temp.”
Carter nodded. “Thank you. I wish you’d come to visit. There’s—”
“You hungry?” Savannah asked, pulling out some turkey and another apple and cheese, anything not to look at him.
“You planning on spending every minute of your life here?”
Maybe. “Of course not.”
“When?” she asked, thunking the food down on the counter. “Katie’s in school and Margot—”
“Is an adult. She just went to China or someplace. She doesn’t expect you to grow old with her.”
Savannah started to assemble sandwiches as if on a stopwatch.
“Savannah.” He touched her hand, pulled the knife from her fingers and forced her to look at him. “She’s not coming back. Mom—”
“I know that,” Savannah snapped, pulling her hands free.
“Then why are you waiting around like she is?”