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The Temptation of Savannah O'Neill Molly O Keefe 2022/8/3 13:52:58

“I know, Dad,” Matt said, his voice gruff.

“Good. Then tell me, when I’m out, where are you going to be?”

“I think,” he said, feeling the words roll up from his gut like stones, filling his mouth until he had to spit them out. “I think I have to go back to St. Louis to tie up some loose ends.”

There was a commotion on Joel’s side of the line. “Uh-oh,” he said. “Looks like Little Adam got some bad news from his wife. They’re going to clear us out of here, son.”

“Dad,” Matt said. “Is everything okay, though? That Richard visit—was there something wrong? Something I should know?”

Joel took another long drag from his cigarette and Matt waited, nervous for some reason.

“Don’t worry about it, Matt,” Joel said. “It was nothing.”

“Talk to you in a few days,” Matt said and hung up.

He couldn’t fix Savannah and the mess he’d made here, he couldn’t fix his father’s crime—the only thing he could fix was his own life.

And it was time he did it.

Before he could curb the impulse, he dialed his office number. It was late on Sunday so he left a message that Erica would get in the morning.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I owe you.” He paused. “I owe you so much, Erica.” He did some quick math, figured out how many days work he had left.

“I’ll be back next Monday,” he said. “I promise. I know that might not mean much right now, and if you want to leave I don’t blame you, but I will be back in town in a week to clear things up.”

He shut his phone, wondering if he’d done the right thing. Stepping back into the land of the living was not something he could undo.

Giving himself a deadline to leave the Manor and Savannah was something he could not undo. He’d have to leave on Sunday to be in St. Louis on Monday.

Which gave him seven days.

Carter’s car started and drove away, spitting gravel as it went. Matt turned and there was Savannah, Katie scowling at her side.

Savannah’s eyes searched his face, just as he searched hers, trying to read her emotions on her skin.

“You okay?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” he said. “You?”

She shook her head, tears welling in her eyes, and he wished there was something he could do. Something that would help.

Then she stepped up against him, her body flush to his and her arms slid around his back, her fingers lighting fires through his shirt, holding him close. Tight.

Breath left his body in a gust and his hands trailed up her back, to her shoulders, feeling the skin and muscle of her arms and neck. So strong, this woman.

He pressed his cheek to the top of her head, getting drunk on the smell of flowers and dried sweat in her hair.

Electricity fired through his body but he ignored it.

Ignored the snarling desire for more of her.

It was only a hug. Comfort.

Where he least expected it and wanted it most.

Seven days, he thought. And swore.

MONDAY MORNING, Savannah climbed the stone steps to the Bonne Terre Library and unlocked its heavy wooden doors. Inside, the cool, still air smelled like books, wood cleaner and damp from the basement that had never dried out from Hurricane Katrina.

“Lucy!” she said with her best Desi impression, “I’m home.”

She got to work, occupying herself with the piles of tasks that had accumulated in her absence. She was grateful for the distraction, but even with the work, Matt was there. Lingering in the corners of her mind, he was never far from any thought she had.

He was different. Changed. He might not be able to see it, but she could. She felt it in that hug last night—the way he’d let himself be touched.

She wished, stupidly, that his letting go of his grief and guilt might mean something for her.

Like he’d stick around.

But he wouldn’t. No one ever did.

By noon, the air conditioner was battling the humidity that pressed down from outside and the summer school kids were at the computers.

Including Garrett and Owen.

Looking at them, her blood literally boiled. Two weeks since the first break-in and there they were, as if nothing had ever happened. She had to drink a big glass of cold water to stop herself from incinerating.