“You’re right, Sadie. My apologies.”

She’d have been happier if his tone hadn’t been so formal, but in the end, it was for the best, wasn’t it?

The store had a checkered awning that matched numerous others around the old-fashioned square, easily visible now that the leaves were mostly missing from the Bradford pear trees lining the streets. Sadie wondered what cute little Christmas traditions the town observed and whether those bare branches would be wrapped in holiday lights. She wished she could be here to see it, to walk along the sidewalks with Zach and soak in the atmosphere.

But her life was elsewhere. So were the people who were counting on her. She tried not to think about how quickly she might have to leave as she stepped through the door into a camera lover’s paradise.

“Hello, my dear Sadie,” Mr. Callahan said. “What an unexpected pleasure.”

“For me, as well,” she said with a smile, allowing the dapper Southern gentleman to press a gentle kiss to her cheek.

She caught a glimpse of Zach’s surprised look as she pulled back. Why was he shocked? She’d made more friends than just him when she’d been here before.

“That is quite a large bandage you have there,” Mr. Callahan remarked. “Did you, by chance, receive that yesterday?”

“Why, yes,” Sadie said. “A cut, but it will heal. What I’m really worried about is my camera.”

He nodded sagely, reminding her of a benevolent, skinny Santa. “Yes, I heard about that, too.”

Well, this was a small town... “I see.” After all, what should she say?

Zach wasn’t having any difficulty coming up with words. “She was very brave, pushing Bateman out of the way of that falling debris.”

For a moment, Sadie wondered why he was so open with Mr. Callahan when he’d practically refused to talk to Gladys at the B and B. But she knew it probably had to do with Mr. Callahan’s integrity. He didn’t need gossip as a source of entertainment.

“I’m glad you came to see me,” he said. “Though there is no hope of repair?”

“Since the camera is sitting under a pile of loose plaster and two-by-fours, I doubt it,” Zach answered.

Sadie winced as she remembered her last glimpse of the camera. “I was able to get almost all of my pictures off, since I download them to my laptop every night. But I’ll bring in the digital card and see if you can get the ones from that day for me.”

The gleam in the older man’s eyes said he looked forward to the challenge. “It will be my pleasure.”

“Until then, I need to order a new one.”

Mr. Callahan moved over to a computer on the counter. “What kind?”

When she told him, he whistled. “You’ve stepped up in the world,” he said.

“And now I’m in deep mourning.” It was either brush it off or cry.

“Let’s see if we can resurrect it,” he said with a wink.

“The Blackstones would appreciate it,” Zach said, surprising Sadie. “She’s using the camera to create a visual history of the mill’s resurrection.”

That had the older man’s eyes widening. “Are you now? I can’t wait to get a sneak peek at the digital card.”

“I can bring my laptop down here later this week so you can see what I have so far. The building and people down there make fascinating subjects.” Especially certain people. She’d have to make sure those photos were in a completely different folder.

“I imagine so,” Mr. Callahan said, even as his fingers continued clicking on the keyboard. “I’ve always been interested in the juxtaposition of all that steel and metal with endless fields of cotton. From what I saw yesterday when I drove out there, the damage is quite picturesque.”

He paused, staring into space for a moment. “Kind of interesting that James Blackstone’s empire suffers ruin just over a year after his death.”

“Was he the original owner?” Sadie asked.

“The original dictator,” Zach scoffed.

Mr. Callahan agreed with a knowing look. “The original business was built several generations ago, and added to through the years, but it was James Blackstone who catapulted it into luxury quality linens.”

Tags: Dani Wade Billionaire Romance
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