“Fine. What am I getting for my generosity?”
Nothing he was going to like...but Sadie kept that thought to herself. Better not to antagonize him any more than normal.
“Unfortunately, nothing at the moment. My biggest lead was blown away this morning.” She explained how the newspaper article had laid out bombing suspect Mark Zabinski’s connection to the local airfield and how his presence there would not have been questioned. This gave the police reason to look into his possible sabotage of the containers on Zach’s plane. That meant Zach was innocent, and the crop poisoning couldn’t be used to disinherit him. She’d have to find something else. Victor’s curses rang in her ear even before she’d finished.
His voice rose in volume and ugliness with every word. “Then find something else. We’re running out of time.”
The sound of him slamming the phone down made her wince, but to her relief he disconnected the call. Letting her eyelids drift closed, she took a few moments to breathe. Her body and her emotions had been through a lot in the past few days. She was exhausted. Her head hurt. And she had to face the fact that she’d had sex with Zach, knowing good and well she would betray him before her time here was over.
Having to deal with Victor on top of all that was more than she could handle, as evidenced by the tremble in her fingers as she opened her laptop and accessed the internet. By the time she went downstairs to meet Zach outside, she knew exactly where she needed to go next.
* * *
“Would you mind if we went out to Callahan’s before heading all the way out to the mill?”
Zach threw a glance her way but quickly returned his eyes to the road. “Sure. What do you need there?”
“Mr. Callahan can order a replacement for my camera. I’d prefer to get it done as soon as possible.” Who knew what she might get involved in once she got to the mill? Plus, it was a long way from town. By the time she got there and got her car, it could be late afternoon.
If there was one thing Sadie wanted almost as much as Zach, it was her camera. Her fingers ached to curl around it once more. Only another shutterbug would understand the feeling, but it was there nonetheless.
“I was surprised when you dropped it,” Zach said, his tone more than conversational somehow. “I knew before that your camera was your baby. This one was really nice.”
She wasn’t going to pretend she hadn’t felt a twinge as it left her hands, because Zach already knew the truth in that. Still, she shrugged. “In the end, it’s just a thing.” And she knew all too well how little things meant in the long run. “Compared to a person...at least the camera can be replaced.”
“Won’t that be expensive?”
Goodness, yes. “That’s what credit cards are for, I guess. The insurance will eventually pay me back.”
Until then, Victor better have it covered.
“Why are we even having this conversation?” she asked, not backing down when Zach shot a glance her way. “Do you really view me as that heartless of a human being that I wouldn’t value Mr. Bateman’s safety over my camera?”
“Wouldn’t you drop whatever you were holding to push your sister out of the way?”
“Yes, but Bateman is a stranger.”
“Who still has a family he cares about and who would miss him if something bad happened to him. You may not approve of all of my actions, Zach, but I still think I’m basically a decent human being.”
“One who’s grown a pretty decent backbone.”
“I told you I was sorry. But I’m not gonna dissolve into sackcloth and ashes or let you whip me with the past. That isn’t good for either of us.”
She sucked in a breath, suddenly realizing the extent of her tirade. But she couldn’t finish without saying, “It won’t change it, either, much as I wish it could.” Because in the end, honesty was important to her, so she would honor that where and when she could without harming her own family...
Zach didn’t respond this time. Sadie’s nerves tightened with every turn of the steering wheel, but she wasn’t backing down on this.
It wasn’t until they reached the little camera shop on one side of the town square that he finally spoke.