Rags to Riches Baby

By: Andrea Laurence

CHAPTER ONE

“And to Lucy Campbell, my assistant and companion, I bequeath the remainder of my estate, including the balances of my accounts and financial holdings and the whole of my personal effects, which entails my art collection and my apartment on Fifth Avenue.”

When the attorney stopped reading the will of Alice Drake aloud, the room was suddenly so quiet Lucy wondered if the rest of the Drake family had dropped dead as well at the unexpected news. She kept waiting for the lawyer to crack a smile and tell the crowd of people around the conference room table that he was just kidding. It seemed highly inappropriate to do to a grieving family, though.

Surely, he had to be kidding. Lucy was no real estate expert, but Alice’s apartment alone had to be worth over twenty million dollars. It overlooked the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It had four bedrooms and a gallery with a dozen important works, including an original Monet, hanging in it. Lucy couldn’t afford the monthly association fees for the co-op, much less own an apartment like that in Manhattan.

“Are you serious?” a sharp voice cut through the silence at last.

Finally, someone was asking the question that was on the tip of her own tongue. Lucy turned toward the voice and realized it was her best friend Harper Drake’s brother, Oliver. Harper had helped Lucy get this job working for her great-aunt, but she’d never met Harper’s brother before today. Which was odd, considering she’d cared for their aunt for over five years.

It was a shame. He was one of the most handsome men she’d ever seen in real life and since he was across the conference table from her, she had a great view. Harper was a pretty woman, but the same aristocratic features on Oliver were striking in a different way. They both had the same wavy brown hair, sharp cheekbones and pointed chins, but he had the blue-gray eyes and permanently furrowed brow of their father. His lips were thinner than Harper’s, but she wasn’t sure if they were always like that or if they were just pressed together in irritation at the moment.

His gaze flicked over Lucy, and she felt an unexpected surge of desire run down her spine. The tingle it left in its wake made a flush rise to her cheeks and she squirmed uncomfortably in her seat. She didn’t know if it was the surprising news or his heavy appraisal of her, but it was suddenly warm in the small conference room. Lucy reached for the button at the collar of her blouse and undid it as quickly as she could, drawing in a deep breath.

Unfortunately, that breath was scented with the sharp cologne of the man across from her. It teased at her nose, making the heat in her belly worsen.

It was painfully apparent that she’d spent far too many years in the company of a ninety-plus-year-old woman. One handsome man looked at her, and she got all flustered. Lucy needed to pull herself together. This was not the time to get distracted, especially when the man in question was anything but an ally. She closed her eyes for a moment and was relieved to find when she’d reopened them that Oliver had returned his focus to the attorney.

Yes, Lucy definitely would’ve remembered if he’d stopped by to visit. Actually, she hadn’t met any of these people before Alice died and they all started showing up to the apartment. She recognized a few of them from pictures on the mantel, but they hadn’t visited Alice when she was alive that Lucy was aware of. And Alice certainly hadn’t gone to see them. She was ninety-three when she died and still an eccentric free spirit despite confining herself to her apartment for decades. Lucy had been drawn to her radically different beat, but not everyone would be. She’d thought perhaps Alice’s family just didn’t “get” her.

Judging by the stunned and angry looks on their faces, they all seemed to think they were much closer to Aunt Alice than they truly were.

“Really, Phillip. Is this some sort of a joke?” This time it was Thomas Drake, Harper and Oliver’s father and Alice’s nephew, who spoke. He was an older version of Oliver, with gray streaks in his hair and a distinguished-looking beard. It didn’t hide his frown, however.

Phillip Glass, Alice’s attorney and executor of her estate, shook his head with a grim expression on his face. He didn’t look like the joking kind. “I’m sorry, but I’m very serious. I discussed this with Alice at length when she decided to make the change to her will earlier this year. I had hoped she spoke with all of you about her wishes, but apparently, that is not the case. All of you were to receive a monetary gift of fifty thousand dollars each, but she was very clear that everything else was to go to Lucy.”

“She must’ve been suffering from dementia,” a sour-looking woman Lucy didn’t recognize said from the far end of the table.

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