Sadie felt her eyes bug out a little at his harsh tone, though she wasn’t sure why. It was nothing more than what she’d expected. “I just didn’t want you to think—” she spotted his glare, but couldn’t seem to stop “—we were...taking...advantage...now that you own the estate.”
“Well, it’s a little early in the process, but I will be looking into the estate and how it is run pretty soon.” Zach spoke a little more mildly this time. “Still, I don’t believe I said anything about you leaving.”
“I just assumed...”
His raised brow told her exactly what he thought of that.
Maybe he was right. She should just shush. Everything she said right now was coming out wrong.
“Do you know why I’m here, Sadie?”
“Apparently it’s not to throw me out of what is now your apartment.”
He simply stared. “Sarcasm isn’t pretty.”
No, but it was her go-to option in this bizarre situation that she was completely unprepared for. Unless she chose honesty—and that was a scary thought. “No, Zach. I really don’t know why you would want to see me.”
He took a step closer to the island. “No reason at all?”
Sure—if he knew about the baby. But he didn’t, and she wasn’t ready to tell him yet. She would later, after everything was settled. “After what I did to you, Zach? No.”
“The lawyer told me about your deposition.”
Shock shot through her. That was the last thing on her mind. “Oh. I thought it would be kept private until the hearing.”
Zach shrugged. “Does it really matter when I learn what’s in it?”
“I guess not,” she murmured, though she wished he hadn’t learned about it while she was here. She could have done without a face-to-face discussion.
“And about the photos. Why, Sadie?”
Then his tone caught her attention.
She simply couldn’t meet his gaze. “It’s not right for me to keep them, not after...”
“You lied to me, Sadie.”
“Yes, yes, I did,” she said, dropping her gaze to the countertop. “I’m sorry, but I did lie to you.” What more could she say?
This was exactly what she didn’t want. She shook her head. “Zach, excuses won’t change it.”
She straightened her shoulders but still couldn’t force herself to look at him. “The first time, I didn’t know you.”
“But then you did.”
Why torture herself by admitting the truth? Why torture him? But with him standing so close, yet so far out of her reach, her need prodded her. He deserved the truth—the whole thing. “I did know you,” she said, though her voice was so weak as to be almost nonexistent. “And it scared me so badly, all I knew to do was run.”
“Five years, Sadie.” The pure anguish in his voice twisted her heart. One look confirmed the same emotion in his expression. “Why didn’t you come back to me?”
His cry echoed inside her, forcing her reality into words. “Why would a man like you want a woman with all my problems?” She grasped the edge of the counter until her knuckles turned white and her fingers went numb. “I’m sure the lawyer must have told you—the real me is nothing like that Sadie.”
“She’s not?” His voice softened. “Are you sure?”
“Yes.” Most definitely.
He moved closer until he was flush with the other side of the counter. They were as close as they could be in this space. “I’m not sure, Sadie. Because the woman I knew was compassionate and interested in people. Organized and hardworking. Artistic and able to see the beauty in the world, even in the midst of destruction.”
Tears welled up, forcing her to squeeze her eyes closed.
“Isn’t that the same as what you do here? Take on a hard job at a young age so your mother can stay home with your sister? Care about the people you meet in your job every day? Worry about your mother being tired, even though you’re the one on your feet for twelve hours? Teach your sister to appreciate the world around her, even though she’s dying? Sounds like the same Sadie to me.”