The images in his brain were not calming him right now. Any part of him...
He distracted himself by checking on his orders in the kitchen, along with the two new hires he’d put in place a month ago. One was a veteran chef from the military who’d put in ten years of duty before losing a leg in Afghanistan. The other was a hardworking kid who reminded Zach a lot of himself at his age, with a single mom and baby sister at home to support. Only Miguel’s dad had been killed in a car accident. Zach’s had simply walked away when supporting a wife and child got too boring for him to handle.
Despite the rush, he found everything moving along smoothly in the kitchen. There was no need for Zach to be working at Lola’s. In fact, he refused to let his mother pay him anymore. The last thing he needed these days was money—a concept he couldn’t quite absorb. But he couldn’t stay away.
Taking care of his grandmother, mother and sister was a way of life for him. He’d only been away from them while he was in the military. No matter what his job was now, his day still wasn’t complete until he’d touched base with them. And he wasn’t the kind of man to sit around while the women worked. He wasn’t like his father—uncaring enough to walk away from the people who needed him. Nor KC’s father, who’d done the same when the going got tough. Zach had never let down the women in his life, and his new millionaire status wasn’t an excuse to start now.
So here he was on a Friday night, carrying a tray of appetizers out to a table surrounded by several couples eager to eat before hitting the dance floor. Lola’s was crowded tonight. Lots of people were in town needing to blow off steam, especially those who worked out at the mill. Too many probably thought about the disaster they would have faced if it hadn’t been a mandatory shutdown weekend when the bomb had gone off.
Zach talked to the customers for a few minutes about the damage, then left them to their food. As head of security, he’d done his best to spread the most positive outlook. He hoped he was having some effect, because the last thing this town needed was for the people living here to give up. Regardless of the damage, the Blackstone brothers were not going to let the mill close and the town disappear. They’d all worked too hard to have that happen to the people they cared about.
Hearing some boisterous laughter, Zach glanced at the table of firefighters only to spot an unexpected redheaded beauty in their midst.
Well, look what snuck in while I was in the kitchen.
He should stay away—he really should—but knew he wouldn’t. Casually making his way across the room, he stopped to check in at a few tables while keeping Sadie in view. Her laughter, her smile were beautiful things, though she wasn’t overtly flirting. Still, a surprising surge of anger streaked through him. He found himself circling slowly, almost like a lion studying his prey from all angles.
Coming in from behind, he could no longer see her face, but he could finally hear her words.
“So, did they know someone was sabotaging the mill before this?”
Every cell in his body went alert at the question. Why was she asking?
“Oh, yeah,” one of the locals eagerly replied. “Of course, those of us who work there knew it way before any manager did. But we needed proof, right?”
She nodded, which caused the muted lighting to glint off her ruby curls.
“They say they got someone in custody,” the man continued. “Whoever it is, they’re gonna get a sh—oops, not supposed to say that in front of a lady.”
Was that a hint of a blush on the curve of her cheek he could actually see?
“But the whole town, they’re already up in arms.”
“That will just give them a target,” she murmured, nodding her understanding.
Standing right behind her, Zach felt a moment of evil satisfaction that he stood so close, yet she seemed unaware. One by one the men at the table spotted him. Oddly enough, none gave away his presence to the lamb in their midst.
Every time he was around this woman, his hackles rose. He told himself it was because he’d found her at the mill, where she didn’t belong, but he was afraid the reason was much, much deeper.
“Why would you want to know?” he finally asked.