Her heart pounded as she waited for Zach, nausea welling up inside her. He’d paused to talk with the country club valet, whom he knew from working at the mill. If she could just stand here and watch him forever, she’d be so happy.
But deep down, she knew she had to end this tonight. Somehow she would find the courage to tell him the truth. He deserved to know how to claim his inheritance, and she’d decided he should hear it from her.
But first, just one more night together. One last memory.
Finally he headed her way, his dark good looks set off by the black suit and tie. She savored the way his gaze traced her body. No other man would make her feel as wanted as Zach did. She knew that beyond a doubt.
They joined the Blackstones at their table. Sadie realized she must be getting used to attending these events with Zach, because that feeling of unreality she usually experienced had disappeared. Too bad this wouldn’t last. As soon as she returned to Dallas, she’d be extra busy looking for a new position. Hopefully in the same social circles her former boss had enjoyed, so she could continue to keep their heads above water as best she could.
Victor had continued to pay her regular salary, in addition to all of her travel expenses, as if she were on a regular business trip, instead of seeking to ruin a man’s reputation. But when she came back empty-handed, all of that income would end.
She had some contacts within those social circles, so that might help. But her foremost concern was that her sister needed to remain close to the hospital and doctors who currently treated her. Sadie would hate to be separated from her family, but without the bonus from Victor, for finding dirt to disqualify Zach from his inheritance, finding work would be essential.
Wherever she could find it.
Christina sat opposite Sadie. The tired cast to her face prompted Sadie’s concern. The poor thing must be exhausted after handling her mother-in-law’s death, plus her own grief and her pregnancy, too. “How are you, Christina?” Sadie asked quietly, not wanting to draw undue attention.
The other woman’s smile seemed bittersweet. “I’m managing. Just trying to focus on what’s right in front of us, you know?”
Sadie didn’t, but she could imagine, so she nodded.
Before she could respond further, Aiden rose from his chair to look over the table. Everyone’s attention turned to him. He appeared comfortable in his role as head of the family. His normally tough gaze as he took in those around him seemed to soften and glow. “Thank you for being here tonight. We wanted our family and closest friends here to celebrate the joy that is coming to our family—our newest baby, who will be joining us soon, along with the return of our brother Luke and his engagement to one of Black Hills’s own treasures, Avery Prescott.”
Quiet applause and smiles erupted. Sadie glanced down the length of the table, noting the people she recognized. Luke Blackstone and his fiancée were new to her, along with an older couple someone had mentioned were a doctor and his wife, friends of both the Blackstones and Prescotts, and mentors of Avery Prescott. Zach and Bateman and his family were there from the mill. She was impressed to see both Nolen and Marie present, along with a younger woman Marie had introduced to Sadie as her niece, Nicole. There was a mix of ages, stations in life and connections, but Sadie had found that the Blackstones embraced others based on their presence in their lives, not what they were capable of doing for them.
The viewpoint was refreshing for Sadie. She only hoped she could find future employers who were as real as the people she’d come to know here.
As they were served their meals, Sadie felt Zach’s hand circle around her own. She turned to find him watching her with the fire and need she so desperately wanted to see in his eyes.
“You look beautiful tonight, Sadie,” he said. “I love you in this dress.”
Her throat closed for a moment. Hearing those first three words on his lips meant the world to her, even if he didn’t mean them the way she wished. “I love you in that suit,” she finally whispered. “Very dashing.”
“Dashing, huh? Debonair, too?”
Oh, that grin was dangerous. “Most definitely.”