“Sadie,” she said with a sad shake of her head, “when was Mr. Beddingfield ever involved in anything good? Yes, he might have changed his perspective somewhat on his deathbed, but that man never did something only from goodness. There was always an ulterior motive.”
Ulterior motive indeed. “Mr. Beddingfield didn’t send me on this trip. Victor did.”
Her mother’s eyes widened. “Yes, I can see why you didn’t share that with me. There is nothing benevolent in that man. I was surprised to even come home to find our stuff still here yesterday. I couldn’t figure out why he hasn’t made us leave the estate yet.”
“It was part of our agreement,” Sadie confessed.
Then she went on to tell her mother the how and why of her trip back to Black Hills, South Carolina. About halfway through she looked away, unable to bear what was sure to be her mother’s disappointment in her. She managed to keep the tears at bay until she mentioned the baby she was now sure she carried.
The silence of several minutes was only broken by the release of steam from the kettle. Sadie couldn’t bring herself to steep her sister’s tea. Instead she remained with her arms braced against the counter, praying that the pain in her heart would ease enough to let her breathe again.
“So this man, Zach, will we be seeing him again?” her mother asked.
Sadie nodded. “I’ll have to tell him about the baby, but it was so new, I just...couldn’t.” A deep breath braced her for her latest decision. “I will contact him soon enough, but I want to be established in a new job, a new place to live. I just couldn’t bear to give him the impression that I told him about the baby to get some of his money.”
“But Sadie, how will we afford—”
“I don’t know. We just will. Somehow.” But she knew beyond a doubt she couldn’t face asking Zach for money. She wasn’t even sure she would be able to take it if he offered. So much of this whole situation had been motivated by her struggles to simply keep their heads above water.
But other people would only see it as greed.
“We will figure something out,” she assured her mother with a false smile. “I’ll start looking for another job today. One thing—the only good thing—Mr. Beddingfield did was to safeguard me against any attempt Victor made to discredit me. I have a certified reference from him, with his lawyer’s signature as witness. That will at least give me a place to start.”
Some of the strain on her mother’s face eased. “Yes, it will help. I could look for something—”
“Absolutely not.” They’d had this discussion time and again. “Amber needs you with her. We both know that. I’ll fix this, somehow.”
Even if the solution was a complete and total mystery to her right now.
* * *
Zach took a seat in the substantial waiting area at the offices of Beddingfield’s lawyer, Timberlake. Apparently, Beddingfield Senior had been a big man in town, and he’d paid for the best in everything. Including lawyers.
Zach couldn’t bring himself to think of the man as his father. He’d contributed DNA, but that was about it.
Except now, after his death, he was about to gift Zach with a fortune that still boggled his mind, according to his phone conversations with the lawyer. Beddingfield hadn’t just hit it big in the oil business after coming to Texas, he’d then diversified, which had protected his assets from market fluctuations and downturns. Zach would be in a tax bracket far removed from the one he’d moved into after opening his own business. The thought was so far outside reality that he’d stopped trying to comprehend it.
But in terms of the man who’d sired him—it was a case of too little, too late.
Zach had chosen to make an impromptu trip to Dallas before telling his family all that had transpired. He preferred to have all the facts at hand first.
Besides, his sister had become increasingly curious about Sadie, not buying Zach’s excuse that she’d returned home for a family emergency. Of course, after his investigation into her history, that excuse might not have been as far from reality as he’d thought when he made it up.