“I’ll look upstairs,” Margot said, putting down her cup.
“I’ll check my office.”
Matt didn’t know how he could help, or if his help would be accepted, but he wanted to do something. Wished he could do something. Anything. For her.
Savannah came barreling into the kitchen.
“No sign of her?” he asked.
“She’s not in the office,” Savannah said, grim and stony-faced. “Did you check the sleeping porch?”
“No,” he said. “Why do you think she’d go there?”
“She’s eight and she’s mad, Matt. Who knows why she’s doing anything?”
It was a good point and Matt stepped into her wake, following her to his room.
SAVANNAH OPENED the big wood-and-glass doors to the sleeping porch and listened for any signs of her runaway daughter.
“I know you’re in here,” she said, opening a closet in the corner. Nothing but a long forgotten winter coat and a dusty Christmas wreath.
Guilt was a stitch in her side as she scanned the nearly empty room. Only Matt’s neatly made bed and duffel bag. The terra cotta flowerpots, cracked and covered in dust, sat in the corner.
The smell of him—sunshine and hard work and something clean, something totally Matt—was everywhere.
She’d forgotten her daughter today. Forgotten her. And she wasn’t stupid. She knew, in part, it was because of Matt, because of this growing obsession she had with not only the Elements Building tragedy.
Did good mothers forsake their attraction to men for their kids? Was that what was required of her right now?
Because she didn’t want to let go of it. Even though she knew Matt was leaving, she wanted something of the time he was here.
Clearly, she was the worst mother in the world. But she wasn’t going to apologize. A few months ago, she would have, she would have turned her back on what she wanted, but she was different now.
Matt Woods stepping into her life had changed her.
“I know you’re mad,” she said to her daughter as if she could see her. She got down on her knees and looked under the bed. At first, nothing but dust bunnies the size of her head then, at the foot, her daughter’s defiant blue eyes.
“Katie.” She sighed, holding out her hands, reaching for her daughter’s outstretched palm.
“I’ve been here for like, three hours!” Katie yelled. “I’m stuck.”
Savannah smiled, though she felt like crying, and pulled Katie from where she was wedged on her side under the bed, her legs curled up to her pointy little chin.
“My legs don’t work right,” Katie muttered, sticking her face into Savannah’s neck. Savannah fell back on her butt and cradled her daughter close.
“They’re asleep,” she said. “Give them a few minutes.” She pulled dust bunnies and cobwebs from Katie’s hair and brushed the worst of the mess off the second set of Asian pajamas from Margot’s cruise. Ruined, of course.
“I’m really sorry about today,” she murmured into the pink shell of Katie’s ear.
Katie pulled back, her eyes accusing her of everything short of a third world war. “You just left.”
“I thought Margot was watching you.”
“You left me here with—” Katie’s eyes flickered over Savannah’s shoulder and went cold and hard “—that guy.”
Savannah felt Matt over her shoulder, a warm solid weight like a hand against her skin. She wanted to laugh at the thought of Matt as just that guy. Somehow, someway, in the past few weeks, he’d become far more than that.
What he was, however, she couldn’t be sure.
“Matt is not that guy,” Savannah said, trying to be patient.
“Then who is he?” Katie asked. She shook, her eyes direct, her hands in fists, and Savannah wondered if this was more than jealousy over the amount of time and attention she’d been giving to Matt.
Savannah darted a quick glance at Matt, who was as baffled as she was and as conflicted about her as she was about him. It was right there, easy to read in the set of his shoulders, the lines in the corner of his mouth. “He’s a friend,” she said, perhaps more to him than Katie.