Sunday dinner at Ashby Manor was always a chaotic affair with housekeepers frantically running around to make sure the formal dining room was set to Sadie’s exacting standards. Two uniformed servers busied themselves uncorking wine and organizing serving dishes and spoons and whatever else was required to make sure Sunday dinner felt like the family time it was meant to be.
“Five minutes,” Sadie told the head housekeeper, a warning in her voice. Even though she had a ruthless streak that ran deep in her petite body, Sadie always seemed a little anxious about making sure things were perfect. Every single Sunday.
“Emmett,” she smiled as I walked into the dining room. “Come, let’s have a drink.”
“Sure, thanks.” It was just me and Sadie together in the dining room, waiting for the room to clear. We only had a few minutes to ourselves before the rest of the family and their guests would arrive in the next five minutes. Otherwise, they’d be late.
“Wine or whiskey?” I said, walking behind the bar.
Her lips curled into a grin. “Whiskey, of course.”
I poured two fingers into two crystal tumblers and handed one off to her. “How are things?” I wasn’t all that involved in the Ashby Organization beyond House of Ashby, training champion fighters, but I also wasn’t a fool. I knew a good portion of the Ashby wealth came from underground card games, prostitution, extortion and even some drug trafficking. I’d stop letting it bother me a long time ago, and I never judged them for it. Ever.
Sadie sighed and leaned against the heavy oak hutch. “Things are as they always are, Emmett. Hectic. Crazy. Dangerous. Take your pick.” She took a long sip from her tumbler, sharp green eyes taking in every detail of my face. “How are you adjusting to being back at the gym? No aftereffects of the attack?”
Always, but I shook my head, deciding to keep my own secrets. I’d gotten caught in the crossfire when the Rhymers came after the Ashbys, but I wasn’t getting paid to whine to Sadie. We’d get our revenge.
“None that I’m aware of,” I said, the whiskey smoothing down the lie, “other than being a bit more cautious of my surroundings.”
I really should start carrying my piece again, for peace of mind, not because I thought I was still in danger. Then again, being as close as I was to the Ashby family, there was always some danger.
“I’m fine,” I said, raising my glass to our mutual good health. “The fighters are looking good, and we have a few new trainees who appear…promising.”
“That’s good to hear.” Sadie nodded; her gaze focused just over my shoulder as if her mind was someplace else. “Keep an eye out for anyone to replace Ravager on our roster until he’s healed.” I was more than grateful that Sadie didn’t blame me for that shit show because it could have ended my career as a fight trainer.
“I have someone in mind. He’s not as young as Rob, but he’s stronger with a harder punch. Come by the gym some time and check him out.”
She nodded and flashed a grateful grin. “I will. And Emmett, I want to thank you for making time for Vanessa. She’s still fragile and in need of a friend, and I’m told you’ve been a good one to her.”
I shrugged off her praise, feeling uncomfortable with it. “No thanks necessary. She’s a nice lady, and we kind of get each other.”
“Doesn’t hurt that she’s beautiful, does it?”
I took a long sip from my own glass, trying to figure out how to answer without giving anything away. “Doesn’t it always?”
Sadie laughed. “I always appreciate a good piece of eye candy.” Her eyes twinkled with mischief, and I wondered what the woman who had been more like a mother to me than my own drug and booze addicted mom was up to.
Hearing footsteps, I turned then to the doorway. Sadie’d seen her sons before I did.
“Jasper. Virgil,” she said, waving them into the dining room. “I was just about to have Emmett send up smoke signals to announce dinner.”
Virgil rolled his eyes and dropped down in his seat at the middle of the table. “Ma, we’re two minutes late.”
“Two minutes late is not on time,” she reminded him and took her seat at the head of the table, Jasper seated right beside her. “Where is Maisie?”
“I’m right here,” she said breathlessly, rushing into the dining room. She flung her handbag onto an empty chair beside the window before she took her seat beside Virgil. “Sorry I’m late. Twin billionaires had me running around all day in search of red-headed twin acrobats. They settled for black-haired twins because they used to be Cirque du Soleil dancers.”
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