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The Temptation of Savannah O'Neill Molly O Keefe 2022/8/3 13:53:09

I can do this, she thought. If Matt could put the building collapse behind him and forgive his father and love her enough for the both of them, then she could go to him. She could put her faith in him. In love.

She stood. “I’m going to take Katie on a trip.”

“I don’t know when I’ll be back.”

“A very excellent plan.”

“I can do this,” she said, trying to convince herself.

Margot clasped one of Savannah’s hands in both of hers. “You can do anything.”

Savannah threw her arms around Margot. “Thank you,” she whispered. “Thank you for keeping us safe. Thank you for being the best mother I could have ever wished for.”

“You’re welcome. Now go get that man before he decides life is easier without you.”

Crap. That could really happen? Savannah grabbed her purse and ran out of the library.

The sun was bright and she blinked at its radiance, feeling as if she’d come out of a cave into a brand-new day.

MATT FLIPPED CARTER’S CARD around in his fingers, the edges of the fine paper getting soft, dingy from wear. To call or not to call, that was the question.

“All right,” Erica said, coming into his office with yet another box. “This is the last one.” She dropped the heavy box next to the other ten. All that was left of his business. Files he needed to keep. Tax returns. Other documents that seemed too important to shred.

He was getting rid of the office space—the last of the work he could do from home.

“Thank you,” he said, pushing back in his chair until it hit the floor-to-ceiling window looking down on Washington Avenue.

“You already have,” Erica said, her eyes becoming watery. The Rolex he gave her sparkled tastefully at her wrist, but he knew that wasn’t what she was talking about.

“When do classes start?”

“In a few days. Matt—”

He waved his hands. “You’re going to be an incredible architect and Washington University will give you the best education.”

It had been hard convincing her to take the opportunity, but he knew she’d been saving for the chance to go back to school. He simply sped up the process.

“What are you going to do?” she asked.

“Well, I’m going to finish the Monroes’ lake house and the library in Creve Coeur, but then…” He flipped the card again. “We’ll see.”

“No more disappearing acts?”

He nearly laughed. It seemed like a miracle she could even see him. Every day he woke up and looked in the mirror at his body, and wondered how it was still around. He felt like he was vanishing, bit by bit. A walking, talking ghost.

“I swear,” he said and held up his hand. “Now, you should head out before traffic gets too bad.”

“Okay,” she said. He quickly hugged her, before her tears could start in earnest, and promised to stay in touch, to take care of himself.

Matt just wanted to be alone. To lick his wounds. To examine all of his memories of Savannah and Katie in quiet. Torture himself in peace.

She wasn’t coming. He knew that. He knew that the second he made the demand. She said she loved him, but without faith, love was shallow. Practically empty.

An hour later he heard the door open again and he spun away from the view he’d been staring at. The sun had set and his office was gray and shadowy, the yellow light from reception cutting a bright slice out of the gloom.

Savannah stepped into the doorway.

NERVES WERE CUTTING OFF all brain function. Savannah could only look at him and wonder if she was too late.

Do you still want me? she wanted to ask. Even though I’m a mess? Even though it took me so long to believe in you, in the goodness and wonder of you?

Her mouth was dry. Her palms damp.

“Hi,” she said. Idiot.

“Savannah?” He stood, slowly as if in disbelief. He was thin again, pale. But so handsome in a suit, the tie pulled loose.

He wore his glasses. And she just wanted to curl up in his arms and lick him.

“Matt!” Katie barreled into the room, nearly knocking Savannah over in her enthusiasm. “Whoa! Look at that view!” She ran to the window and pressed her face against it, her breath creating condensation against the glass. She’d been this way the whole journey—two days of uncorked curiosity. It was exhilarating. And exhausting. “You’re not going to believe it. We saw the Mississippi River. It looks dirty. And we saw a homeless person and we got stuck in traffic. Lots of traffic. We stayed in a motel, Matt. With a pool. Can you believe it?”