“Sorry, Gladys,” Sadie said.
“Well, how lucky for me that it’s Zachary Gatlin.”
Zachary couldn’t imagine a time when Gladys had ever been that happy to see him, except when she hoped to get a juicy bit of gossip. He looked up with an arched brow. This might be more interesting than he’d thought. “And why would that be?” Zach didn’t believe in beating around the bush.
“Why, I get to be the first to congratulate you.”
“On what, exactly?” There hadn’t been a lot happening worthy of celebration lately.
“On being officially cleared for the cotton poisoning, of course.”
She tapped the newspaper she’d dropped on the table with a well-manicured finger. The top headline read, Founding Family Son Charged in Mill Bombing. Zach was still trying to put the pieces together when Sadie picked up the top section of the paper. Zach didn’t need to read it. He already knew who was to blame. Which was a perk of being part of the inner Blackstone circle.
Sadie seemed to be devouring the text. Zach watched her for a moment, then glanced up at Gladys as she continued to stand next to the table.
“Isn’t it great, Zach?” she asked with a gleam in her eye that said she couldn’t wait to be on the phone the minute she had something to pass along. If he didn’t give her something, she’d just make up something interesting. Of course, the fact that Zach was here, and had probably come down from Sadie’s room, would be the first thing she’d offer.
“Yes, Gladys. It’s very nice.”
Even though I shouldn’t need the validation of being proven innocent. His sister, his mother, Jacob and his new employers all believed in him, even when the evidence had been totally damning. Those were the people that mattered.
So he kept it simple.
As Gladys headed back to the kitchen with a disappointed look on her face, Zach turned to find Sadie’s eyes on his. “Why blow her off like that?”
“Because she’s looking for a scoop, something to share with the grapevine.”
Sadie nodded. Her guarded expression held a hint of sadness, as if she understood his need to protect himself. But what he really wanted to know was what she hid behind the mask...and whether he would regret last night if he found out her true secrets.
“I’ll finish getting ready.”
At least, that’s what Sadie told Zach to get a few minutes alone in her room. She needed to make a phone call before Zach took her anywhere this morning. Since her car was still at the mill, she didn’t have any choice but to get a few things in order and hitch a ride into town.
Luckily, Zach hadn’t pushed anything after their conversation at breakfast. She’d had the distinct impression he’d just as soon step out in the parking lot and get out of ready reach of Gladys. Not that she could blame him.
She was well acquainted with people who blamed first and asked questions later.
Sadie also loved the people who pretended she didn’t exist, because it was easier than having to be polite.
Not that she was in a position to judge. As she picked up her phone, she was all too aware of that fact.
“I need a new camera,” she said without preamble when Victor picked up.
He wasn’t thrilled—not that she’d thought he would be. “What the heck does that have to do with me?” he asked.
Sadie explained how the camera had been shattered when she’d dropped it, then the falling debris had finished the job.
“My question stands.”
“A photographer has a camera. A nice camera.”
“Then I guess you should have held on to yours.”
Why did she bother explaining anything to this guy? “According to our contract, you are responsible for all business expenses, including a camera. I could have considered it a regular expense, but it’s not, so I’m actually giving you the courtesy of informing you that you need to pay for it.” Sadie had covered every loophole she could think of in the deal with Victor. It was all completely spelled out in black and white. And he’d needed her, so he’d signed.
“So sue me.”
“If you don’t pay, I’ll just have to wait for the insurance claim. They’ll take care of it...eventually. But it will mean a delay—”