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The Temptation of Savannah O'Neill Molly O Keefe 2022/8/3 13:52:37

“Margot,” she said, grabbing her grandmother’s elbow. “Perhaps we—”

“Should show him the courtyard,” Margot said, smiling at Matt and shaking off Savannah’s hand. “So he can see the scope of the work.”

Margot was determined—more determined now that a man was here, handsome and virile, stepping into the Manor—than she’d been in front of the greenhouse two days ago, cradling her dead orchids.

Savannah began to sense that this was wrong in more ways than they could possibly fathom.

Men in general were a danger to the O’Neill women; it had been proven time and time again men brought out the worst in them. The most notorious aspects of their already inappropriate characters.

But handsome strangers? They were catnip to a certain kind of woman—and Margot was one of those women.

Right, she nearly laughed aloud at her own blindness, and you’re so immune.

It had been years since her heart had thundered in her chest like this—and that had not ended all that well.

“I’ve lived in this house my whole life,” Margot was saying, her hand cradled in Matt’s elbow as she led them through the shabby manor as if it was still the best property in the area. “And my mother did the same before me.”

“It’s a beautiful house,” Matt said, glancing up at the high ceilings, all of which needed spackle and paint. The mahogany floors beneath their feet were beginning to buckle and sag in places and she watched as Margot led him around the worst patches, as though they were avoiding puddles in the rain. “Did your family build it?” He asked.

Savannah laughed and Margot tossed her a wicked look over her shoulder. “Yes,” Margot said. “My great-great-grandfather built this house.”

As a saloon and whorehouse.

She noticed Margot wasn’t advertising that fact.

The devil in Savannah wanted to point out the origins of the house, just to watch Margot’s skin get splotchy and Matt get flustered, but Savannah spent so much time pretending not to be born from a long line of gamblers and whores that she couldn’t bring herself to say it.

No matter its comedic value.

They stepped from the dark hall, with its offshoots of parlor, dining room and library, through the glass doors into the middle courtyard.

“Beautiful,” Matt said, and Savannah wondered if he really meant it. He seemed to. All that predatory intensity was dialed down for a moment as his eyes swept over the hedges and lilies she kept in order.

“Yes,” Margot agreed, with a sideways look at Savannah. “The middle courtyard is not the problem.”

The phone rang inside the house and Margot cast Savannah a pleading look, which Savannah scowled at.

Right. She was going to leave this strange man alone with her aging grandmother. Particularly when said aging grandmother insisted on wearing the only real jewelry they had left that was worth anything. The diamonds that were, according to Margot, a thank-you gift from a certain president of Irish heritage. Please.

“I’ll be right back,” Margot said, giving Matt’s arm a squeeze. “My granddaughter will show you the rest of the way.”

Margot left, blue silk fluttering behind her.

“Grandmother?” he said. “She looks like she could be your mother.”

“She’s not,” Savannah said. The subject of daughters and mothers was not discussed at the Manor. And fathers? Well, it simply never came up.

“Is your mother here?” he asked, and Savannah stared hard at Matt, as if to see past his green eyes and strong arms to the heart beating under that lean chest.

He stared right back at her, his eyes wide open as if he had nothing to hide.

Of course, that had to be a lie. Everyone had something to hide. Everyone.

“No,” she said. “She isn’t. I’ll show you the back courtyard.”

She led him through a second set of glass doors into a brighter hall leading left to the kitchens and cellars and right to the upstairs bedrooms.

“So why don’t you call her grandmother?” Matt asked and Savannah rolled her eyes.

“Does she look like a grandmother?”

Matt smiled. “Good point. Does anyone else live here?”