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The Temptation of Savannah O'Neill Molly O Keefe 2022/8/3 13:53:04

It was more of an accusation than a question.

“No,” he said and Savannah’s lips went white, her shoulders going rigid and tight as if taking a punch.

“See?” Her voice broke slightly as she turned to Katie. “He—”

“But I can come back,” he said, gripping her hand, turning her to face him, forcing her to look into his eyes. She was blank, carefully blank, as if showing some kind of emotion, some kind of fear or hope, would bring her to her knees. Suddenly, he was desperate to convince her, to shake off that terrible stillness so he could see something true. So he could see the real Savannah.

“I have a couple months’ work to finish up in St. Louis,” he continued. “But then, I can come back. I…” He glanced at Katie, who was staring at them slack-jawed. “I want to come back.”

Savannah’s face was still unreadable, but he felt her hands shake as she pulled them out of his, small tremors, cracks throughout her foundation. “We don’t have to talk about this right now.”

Finally, something in her flashed, her eyes got hot. “Because we’ve known each other three weeks, Matt, and half that time you were lying to me. The other half you were killing yourself in my courtyard with guilt over the Elements accident and now, suddenly, you’re over it and ready to move here?”

That pissed him off, summing up the relationship that way so she could dismiss it.

“I’m not a child, Savannah. I know how I feel.”

“Really?” she asked, laughing slightly and her scorn stung, like nails across his skin. “I find that hard to believe.”

He stepped close. Her heat had lit his own fuse and he was suddenly pissed off that she doubted him.

“Are you so ready to throw away what we’ve got?” he asked.

“And what exactly do we have?”

His eyes narrowed, his muscles tightened. “Don’t try to pretend you don’t feel something, Savannah. You don’t let people close to you, I know that. And yet—” he spread his arms, painfully aware of his eight-year-old audience “—here I am.”

Her eyelids flinched. “I don’t understand why you’re so ready to throw away your life for a woman you’ve known less than a month.”

“I don’t think of it as throwing away my life. I can be an architect anywhere,” he said, “and St. Louis is no longer my home.”

“And the Manor is?” she asked, her eyes wide. “It’s that easy for you?”

“I’m not saying this is my home,” he snapped. “And I’m not saying that we should get married tomorrow. But I feel something here. Something real and—”

Savannah stepped away as if from a fire that was flaring out of control. “This isn’t the time or place,” she said, every wall, every defense and barrier in place. She was impenetrable. Unknowable.

Katie stood behind her, owl-eyed and Matt realized Savannah was right. They could talk later.

But, come hell or high water, they would talk.

SAVANNAH, THE COWARD didn’t come down for dinner. She didn’t come to play cards. Matt played Rachmaninoff again, pounding out the chords, throwing all of his anger into the stormy movements, trying to call her downstairs. Trying desperately to compel her to him.

But he could feel her upstairs in her room. A room, in all his sneaking around, he’d never gotten into and now, suddenly, it felt like a mystery. As if there were things hidden there that were far more important than jewels.

He imagined her bedroom, clean and uncluttered. Polished and lovely. Understated, like her.

And he wanted so badly to be in both of them.

“Matt,” Margot said, standing in the doorway. “Not that the music isn’t beautiful, but it’s a little…stirring for the middle of the night.”

He jerked his hands off the keys feeling wasted. Tomorrow could very well be his last day here and he couldn’t believe Savannah wasn’t going to talk to him.

“Go upstairs and get her,” Margot said.

“That easy, huh?” he asked, not believing it for a second.

“No.” Margot laughed. “Not that easy at all. Nothing about Savannah is, but it’s what makes her love all the better.”