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

The back door creaked open and Matt stuck his head in, his smile so pure it stabbed right through her. “Hate to break up the conversation, but Katie is getting anxious to get this fountain in place.”

Savannah nodded, tugging herself free from Margot’s gentle grip.

Today was fountain day. Tomorrow Matt would do the last of the flower planting and sometime tomorrow afternoon their new courtyard would be revealed.

And on Sunday, Matt would leave. Get in his car and drive away.

Monday was a mystery, a great gaping hole that was tearing her into pieces.

“I’m going to help Matt in the backyard.” She practically threw her mug into the sink, her untouched coffee sloshing over the cream ceramic.

Avoiding her grandmother’s eyes, she wished with her whole body and everything in her heart that she was back in bed with Matt, his arm a solid weight around her waist making everything as it was supposed to be.

KATIE AND SAVANNAH STOOD BACK, shovels in hand, and considered fountain positioning while Matt struggled under the weight of the enormous, burlap-covered object.

“It would help if we knew what the fountain was,” Katie said. “If it’s a butterfly…”

Matt, arms straining, muscles burning, tried very hard not to snap at them to make up their damn minds. “It’s not a butterfly,” he grunted. “A unicorn?”

“Whatever it is,” Savannah said, “I think the center of the maze is perfect.”

Thank you, he thought, letting the fountain rest on the earth.

“You like it there?” Katie asked. “Really?”

“Yeah.” Savannah tilted her head to the side. “I do.”

“You’ve got two choices, ladies,” Matt said. “The plumbing only works here or next to the house. Take your pick.”

Savannah and Katie shared a cryptic look, and now that his muscles weren’t about to snap he could appreciate what a remarkable moment this was.

This—not that he had any way to gauge it or prove it—seemed to be one of those moments families have. A mundane moment. An everyday kind of moment.

It made him want to go to a video place and argue about movie rentals. Or what to have for dinner. Or where to go on vacation.

It felt so damn good he wanted to laugh. He wanted to haul these two girls into his arms and never let them go.

“Here,” Savannah said. “Absolutely.”

“Good?” Matt asked, arching his eyebrows at Katie.

“Yeah!” she said and Matt lifted the fountain out of the way so they could start digging the hole. He found the pipe extensions he needed and within a few hours they had a working fountain.

“Come on,” Katie whined, “show it to us.”

“Nope.” Matt patted the damp burlap. “I want it to be a surprise.”

Katie looked mulish and Savannah bumped her with her hip. “Won’t it be cool when he shows us everything tomorrow?” she asked. “When all the flowers are planted and the fountain is going, won’t that be the best?”

“What’s wrong?” Matt asked, thinking maybe he should relent on the whole unveiling thing. The kid had had a pretty rough couple of days. Maybe she could help plant or something.

“The best would be if you didn’t leave,” Katie said, blowing a hole right through his chest. He put his hand against the fountain as the earth wobbled slightly.

“Katie,” Savannah breathed. “Don’t—”

“Why do you have to go?” Katie asked, talking over her mother. “Why can’t you just stay?”

“He lives in St. Louis, honey,” Savannah said, looking tight and drawn. Paper-thin.

There was something in the air, something hot and worried. She was running blind, he could see it. And he wondered whether she was doing it so she wouldn’t get hurt, or to stop him from thinking he should stay.

He’d never know unless he acted.

This was his moment. Right here. Now.

“Savannah?” he said, reaching for her hand but she twisted away.

“What?” She turned to him, her eyes wild. He realized how scared she was, but he wasn’t sure what she was so scared of. “You can’t stay, can you?”