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The Temptation of Savannah O'Neill Molly O Keefe 2022/8/3 13:53:03

“That’s a whole week.”

“It’s a bad stomach thing,” she said, biting out the words. She knew down to the minute how much time she had left with Matt.

Matt chose that moment to step out of the sleeping porch carrying his thermos, looking to her like a man who’d been gorging on sex.

“Morning,” he said into the silence.

“Matt,” Margot said knowingly, her eyes sliding to Savannah.

Savannah yanked the coffeepot free, spilling coffee over her hand.

“Hello, Savannah,” Matt said, his voice rich with laughter as though he knew she was ready to die from embarrassment. He pressed a kiss to the side of her head, patted her waist and headed out the door to the back courtyard, whistling as he went.

“Seems to me,” Margot said, taking the pot from Savannah’s death grip, “you have a Matt thing.”

“I have a…” Savannah paused, not sure how to finish that sentence. Heartache coming? Hole in my head? “None of your business.”

“I was right, wasn’t I?” Margot asked, leaning one hip against the counter. “You like him.”

Savannah didn’t say anything. Of course she liked him, an idiot could see that. An idiot could probably see that she was dangerously close to being in love with him.

“You told Katie about her father?” Margot asked.

“I did. It was time—she’d started to think that Matt was her father.” Margot’s jaw dropped open. “I know.” Savannah managed to laugh a little. “But with me never telling her anything, she started to answer her own questions. Matt got caught in the crossfire.”

“He’s very good with her,” Margot said.

Savannah lifted her eyes to see Matt and Katie in the back courtyard. He was carrying a huge, burlap-wrapped bundle, every muscle straining against his shirt.

Katie leaped and danced around him like a muddy, tangle-haired butterfly.

“That man is good for you,” Margot whispered. “That man is good for both of you. You’re changing because of him.”

It was true. More than true. There were parts of herself she didn’t recognize. Every morning she looked in the mirror expecting to see that she’d become a redhead, or grown a third eye, or something dramatic that would match the utter transformation happening in her heart.

“It doesn’t matter,” Savannah said, tears in the back of her throat, “whether I like him or not. Whether he’s good for us or not. Whether I’m changing or whatever. He has to leave on Sunday.”

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“You could go with him.”

“Please,” she scoffed.

“You think he won’t ask? That man looks at you like you’ve buttered his bread.”

“I have,” she snapped. “But that doesn’t mean anything. You know that better than anyone.”

Margot arched an eyebrow. “Don’t be catty,” she said. “He looks at you like you matter. Like you’re important to him.”

Savannah took small sips of air, feeling as though the whole world was just too tight. In bed with him, his arm around her waist, his breath on her neck, anything seemed possible. It seemed possible that he might stay. That he might love her.

But when she got out of bed and walked around the house where her family had left her, a space opened up in her chest and doubt settled in. Reality fell around her like a hailstorm.

“He came here for his father and he’s staying out of guilt for having lied,” she said, not entirely convinced of that but unsure of what she should believe. “He’s got me all wrapped up in this building collapse thing.”

“You don’t really believe that, do you?”

“I do,” she said emphatically, convincing herself at the same time. “He’ll leave here, get back to his life and forget all about me.”

“Well, of course he will if you let him go without a fight.”

“A fight?” Savannah asked, laughing at the truly ridiculous idea. “How?”

“Go with him,” Margot said, grabbing Savannah’s arms and giving her a little shake. “There’s a world out there. A big one. And instead of looking at it through your computer, you should try to experience some of it.”