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The Temptation of Savannah O'Neill Molly O Keefe 2022/8/3 13:53:06

“Do you know anything about the gems?” Savannah asked, so weary, so tired she could barely stand.

“Are you honestly going to believe her?” Margot asked.

“And you’re so trustworthy?” she asked. Margot swallowed, shrinking a little and looking more and more her age, which heaped more pain on Savannah’s shoulders.

“I’m so sorry, Savannah,” Margot whispered. “I have always done what I thought was best.”

“So, no gems?” Savannah asked and Margot shook her head.

“She’s lying!” Vanessa cried. “Again! Savannah, listen to me, baby—”

“Matt,” Savannah whispered, “please get my…mother out of here.”

“Out of your house?” he asked. “She broke in looking for those gems. She knows something about the night my father—”

He stopped, blinked. And he grew, right in front of her. Changed. His shoulders suddenly seemed wider, his back straighter and his love for her practically blazed out of his eyes.

She realized what he was doing—curbing his want, his desire for information. He was putting himself on hold, this single-minded man who put his vision aside for no one.

He was putting it aside for her.

She wanted to believe in it, but couldn’t. Couldn’t find the faith.

Don’t, she wanted to say. I can’t repay that. I can’t match that sacrifice. I have nothing to give you.

“You want her gone, she’s gone,” he said.

“Thank you,” she whispered, unable to turn down what he offered so easily when she knew she should.

“Those gems are here, Savannah!” Vanessa yelled as Matt led her out to the front lawn where the cops would soon arrive. “Margot knows something!”

Margot spread her fingers across her belly as if she had a pain. “That woman would have ruined your life.”

“Ruined?” A bubble of hysteria built in Savannah. “And how would that be any different than it is now.”

“I love you,” Margot said. “Every day I’ve loved you more. You’re the daughter—” Margot stopped, tears flooding her eyes, her voice thick. “You’re my daughter.”

Savannah thought about Matt and his father—those weeks of macaroni and cheese and the forgiveness that Matt gave him. Maybe tomorrow she’d find that forgiveness, somewhere. Somehow. But right now she was empty. Nothing but echoes and hurt.

Savannah stepped past Margot without a word.

She climbed up the stairs to her daughter’s room and pressed her hand to the door as if she could feel Katie through the wood. And she could. In her mind she could feel her daughter anywhere.

There was no doubt in her mind that her own mother had never felt that connection. Not once.

But Margot did. Savannah knew, because she felt the same connection to Margot.

Savannah braced her head against the door, exhausted and sore.

The door slid open soundlessly and she crept in, easing herself into Katie’s bed, curling her body around Katie’s body, her own tiny heart.

MATT GAVE HIS STATEMENT to the cops and watched them put Vanessa, snarling like a rabid dog, into the back of a cruiser.

“Thanks, Matt,” Juliette said, stepping beside him so the car could leave. “Tell Savannah I’ll be by tomorrow morning.”

Matt nodded and waited for her to drive away, then he nearly ran to the house, desperate to stop what he saw in Savannah’s eyes.

It was like watching a person bleeding out right in front of you and not being able to stop it. Every second he spent away from her he knew he was losing her. He knew it. He saw it.

He needed to get to her, to get close, to show her that he was here. That no matter where he went—St. Louis, the North Pole, the moon, he was here for her. His heart was right beside hers. If she’d let him in.

The sleeping porch was empty. The kitchen dark. The light was on under Margot’s door, but he doubted Savannah was there.

His compass told him she was upstairs. Instead of going to her room he went to Katie’s—somehow sensing her need to be close to her baby.

He knocked softly on the door and after a few moments it cracked open, revealing Savannah and her haunted empty eyes.

Speechless in front of all that pain, he reached for her fingers where they curled against the door. One touch and she shifted away, her fingers twitching.