Her gaze dropped at his question, causing his hackles to rise once more. Why was getting any information from her like pulling teeth?
“Just don’t stir up trouble.” He turned away, lifting a tray of dirty glasses off the counter and stepping through the opening behind the bar.
Only then did he hear her say, “And how’s a busy guy like you gonna stop me?”
* * *
“Don’t you know you don’t have to do this anymore?” a male voice from right behind Sadie asked.
Zach turned back toward her, focusing over her shoulder with a grin that she wished was directed at her. But it was better than the glower she’d been sure to receive after her challenge.
“My mama doesn’t care how much money I make,” Zach said. “She simply points at a table and tells me to get busy.”
When Zach came back out from behind the bar she was forced to step to the side, giving her a good look at the newcomer.
Or rather, newcomers. The trio looked like the epitome of wealth...and exhaustion. Zach shook hands with the blond man before turning to do the same with a man whose dark hair had a mind of its own. The woman between them received a light, social hug.
Based on her discussions with people in town, these must be the Blackstones.
If she remembered her gossip correctly, this would be Aiden Blackstone, his wife, Christina, and one of the younger brothers, Jacob. The utter weariness in their expressions spoke to the trials of the last week. Their brother Luke was currently in the hospital after being near the epicenter of the exploding bomb.
Suddenly another woman arrived through the break in the bar counter, pushing Sadie even farther back. The blonde beauty threw her arms around the one Sadie assumed was Jacob, holding nothing back. The surrounding people didn’t seem surprised. The woman pressed light, quick kisses against his lips, then settled at his side. Her touch never wavered and never dropped. If Sadie remembered correctly from local gossip, Zach’s sister, KC, was engaged to Jacob.
Zach studied them a moment, then asked, “How’s Luke doing?”
“Much better,” Jacob said. “They say he can come home tomorrow.”
“No further damage to his legs?” KC asked.
Jacob shook his head. “None.”
“Good,” Zach added. “We don’t need any more damn tragedies around here.”
Everyone murmured their agreement.
“Anyway.” Aiden stepped closer. “My wife is in firm need of sustenance that isn’t hospital food, and I promised her some of your mama’s fried chicken.”
Zach grinned in a way that took Sadie’s breath. “With a baby on the way, that woman should have anything she wants to have. She’s doin’ all the work, after all.”
“Amen,” Christina said, leaving the whole group laughing.
Sadie smiled, even though she knew it was a little sad around the edges. The group reminded her of her family. There were only three of them, but she, her mama and her sister had taken care of each other through a lifetime of heartache. They could often make each other laugh during the hardest times. And they never gave up hope that they would be together.
Zach stepped back to the kitchen to put in the order without so much as looking in her direction, intensifying Sadie’s feeling of solitude in the midst of the crowd. She eyed the distance back to the table she’d come from, but the Blackstones simply took up too much space for her to squeak by without notice.
Then the silence around her registered and she glanced back to realize she’d become the center of attention. Four sets of eyes studied her. Her familiar technique of disappearing into the shadows where she wouldn’t be noticed wasn’t an option here, as she was boxed in by the wall on one side and the bar counter behind her.
Finally the woman she recognized as Zach’s sister stepped closer. “Hi, there. I’m KC, Zach’s sister. And you are?”
Sadie wasn’t used to people offering her their hands, but she shook anyway. “Sadie Adams.”
“Let me guess,” KC said with a slight smile. “You must be Zach’s new nemesis.”
How had she known? “Um...”
“Oh, is this the woman from the mill?” Christina asked, interest lighting her eyes.