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The Temptation of Savannah O'Neill Molly O Keefe 2022/8/3 13:53:01

“You do.” He leaned forward and caught Margot’s smile out of the corner of his eye. “When you’ve got a good hand you sit really, really still.” Katie’s eyes went wide as understanding dawned. “The rest of the time you’re like a jumping bean.”

“Oh, my gosh!” she breathed, then looked to Margot for confirmation.

“The man is right,” Margot said. “The more still and quiet you get, the better your hand.”

“So,” she asked wide-eyed, “what do I do?”

“Sit still!” Margot cried. “All the time. It’s what your mother and I have been telling you for years.”

The door behind Matt slid open, letting in a draft and the distinctive fragrance of lemon and vanilla. Katie’s eyes went wide, the cards fluttered out of her hands onto the table.

Busted. Very, very busted.

“So,” Savannah said. “Here’s where you all are.”

“Hello, Savannah,” Matt said, turning to see her in the doorway, her arms crossed over the robe that was quickly becoming his favorite piece of clothing on the planet.

“What’s happening here?” she asked, ignoring him. He thought it was fairly obvious—Margot practically looked like a Vegas dealer with the deck of cards in her hand.

But when his companions stayed silent, Matt took the bull by the horns.

“Just a friendly game of poker,” Matt said.

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“Matt!” Katie snapped. “What are you doing?”

“Like she doesn’t know?” he asked. “I’m pretty sure we’re all busted.”

“Let me guess,” Savannah said, addressing her daughter. “Matt’s teaching you poker? Like he taught you those card tricks?”

“No,” Katie admitted, pushing the cards away.

“Don’t be angry, Savannah,” Margot said.

“Angry?” Savannah asked. Matt winced at the tone of her voice, scooting his chair to the side in case fire shot out of her eyes. “Why would I be angry? I’ve only asked that this sort of behavior stop and that Katie, my eight-year-old, not learn how to gamble!”

“We’re not gambling,” Margot replied. “There are no stakes. She wanted to learn, Savannah. She’s been doing those card tricks for years and she’s so bright. She’s really very good.” Savannah’s eyes flared and Margot shut up, looking as contrite as a woman could, drinking a glass of scotch and smoking a cigar.

“It’s only bad if you let it be,” Matt said.

“What do you know about it?” Savannah snapped.

“I know that my dad used to leave me in the car so he could play blackjack. I know that after my mom died we had to move four times in the middle of the night because he’d lost the rent money. I know that when the cards went his way I got to eat steak and shrimp and drink Cherry Coke out of fancy glasses, and when they didn’t, I ate macaroni and cheese.”

Savannah licked her lips, leaving them damp and pink and he tried hard not to be distracted.

“But he always fed me. There was always a warm place to sleep. He helped me with my homework and was there for me. And I know he tried, Savannah. He really tried. And it took a long time, but I forgave him for those nights out in the car and the macaroni and cheese.”

“What’s wrong with macaroni and cheese?” Katie asked and Matt smiled at her. Really, she was such a cool kid.

“Nothing, but when you eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner for, like, three weeks in a row it gets pretty gross.”

Katie nodded in sage agreement and he looked back at Savannah.

“I spent a long time trying to rise above my roots,” he said, remembering what Margot and Katie had said about Savannah the first time they’d played cards. “But it got easier to just live with them.”

Savannah’s eyes flashed to Margot who shrugged, delicately. “The man is right. You’re an O’Neill, and so is your daughter. No use pretending otherwise.”

“Stay,” Matt pleaded, his eyes on Savannah. Katie beside him lit up like a skyrocket was inside of her.

“Stay and have some fun.”