Sadie shrugged away the thanks. “It was no problem.”
“No problem? I didn’t think so.” KC laughed. “Of course, I’m used to a well-ordered kitchen. Being outdoors and not knowing where everything is throws me off.”
“Organization is key,” Sadie said with a wink.
Jacob reached out to shake Sadie’s hand. “Well, we are extremely grateful for your organizational skills.”
Sadie shifted as if their praise made her uncomfortable. “I’m glad I could help,” she said, handing him a large iced tea.
“Would you be free tomorrow to help some more?” Jacob asked.
Sadie blinked. “I’m sure I can,” she said. “I’ll be out here tomorrow to take more pictures anyway.”
“Did you get any good shots today?” KC asked.
Jacob looked over at Zach in a way that made him distinctly uneasy. He kept looking. Zach could see the wheels turning.
“Tomorrow,” Jacob finally said, “we have a truck coming in with lots of supplies for the workers. Decent boots, heavy overalls, protective gloves and such.”
Oh, no. Jacob, please don’t do this to me.
Jacob didn’t even glance in his direction. But his jaw twitched as if he were aware of Zach’s dread...and amused by it.
“We need some help getting everything organized and out to the employees. I don’t want them working cleanup without good-quality gear.”
Zach looked at Sadie in enough time to see her eyes widen. “Isn’t that costing a lot for a company that’s not bringing in any money at the moment?”
Jacob nodded. “But we want them safe. Those that opted to stay on through the temporary closing and rebuilding are being paid wages to help with cleanup and reconstruction.
“We wanted to keep the work local, as much as possible,” Jacob said, his tone firm. “We’ve got some donations, but everything else is at Blackstone expense. Ultimately, this is about the good of the town. The people who live here deserve to be able to stay.”
KC chimed in. “Not be run from their homes by a crazy person.”
“That’s commendable,” Sadie said.
“Not really,” Jacob responded, giving her a puzzled look.
“Trust me.” She met his look without wavering. “I’ve known some businessmen who couldn’t care less about anything but their bottom line. They’d bring in the cheapest labor and not care who lost their livelihoods. Y’all are doing good here.”
Zach could see Sadie mulling all this over, her brain working in overdrive even though she didn’t ask any more questions. She simply picked at the puzzle, trying to unravel the complicated strands.
The fact that he could discern this made him uneasy. He didn’t want to read Sadie’s mind. Didn’t want to feel her curiosity, her disbelief that the Blackstones were good people who cared about their workers. What had happened in her life to lead her to question that?
No, he didn’t want to know.
“Sadie, if your organizing skills make this as easy as serving lunch, we’ll be in business in no time. Zach will be here when the truck arrives in the morning around nine. He can make sure whatever you need is carried out.”
Sure I will. Don’t ask me what I want.
Then Zach wondered if his thoughts were showing on his face, because his sister was watching him—very closely.
Sadie, on the other hand, looked pretty pleased with herself. Considering how he’d treated her since she came back to town, he had to wonder why.
As his sister and Jacob moved on, Sadie smiled over at him. “Looks like it’s you and me together—again.”
Was that a statement...or a threat?
“It’s the truth, I tell ya.”
Sadie couldn’t help but grin at the man before her. Wearing the traditional farmer uniform of overalls, plaid shirt, ball cap and messy white hair, he was a perfect candidate for sitting on a bench in the town square. So were the other two grandfatherly types with him. But he was the talker.
“I think you’re pulling my leg,” Sadie insisted, knowing it would spur him on.
“No, I would never,” he said with a sincere shake of his head. “But I betcha they’re all in on it. The other cotton industries are pressuring the state to shut us down, because they want the business we’ve always had here. That’s why all of this is happening.”