“She was not!” Lucy retorted, suddenly feeling defensive where Alice was concerned. She’d had a bad heart and a fondness for good wines and cheeses, but she wasn’t at all impaired mentally. Actually, for her age, she was in amazing shape up until her death.
“Of course you would say that!” the woman retorted with a red flush to her face. “She was obviously losing her senses when she made these changes.”
“And how would you know?” Lucy snapped. “Not a one of you set foot in her apartment for the five years I’ve cared for her. You have no idea how she was doing. You only came sniffing around when it was time to claim your part of her estate.”
The older woman clutched her pearls, apparently aghast that Lucy would speak to her that way. Lucy didn’t care. She wouldn’t have these people besmirching Alice after her death when they didn’t know anything about how wonderful she was.
Harper reached out and gripped Lucy’s forearm. “It’s okay, Lucy. They’re just surprised and upset at the news. They’ll get over it.”
“I will not get over it!” the woman continued. “I can’t believe you’re taking the help’s side in this, Harper. She’s basically stealing your inheritance right out from under you!”
“The help?” Harper’s voice shot up an octave before Lucy could respond. The time for calm had instantly passed. “Wanda, you need to apologize right now. I will not have you speaking about my friend that way. Aunt Alice obviously felt Lucy was more than just an employee as well, so you should treat her with the same respect.”
Lucy started to shut down as Alice’s relatives fought amongst themselves. The last few days of her life had been hard. Finding Alice’s body, dealing with the funeral and having her life upended all at once had been too much on its own. That was the risk of being a live-in employee. Losing her client meant losing her friend, her job and her home.
And now she found herself in the middle of the Drake family money battle. Lucy wasn’t one for conflict to begin with, and this was the last thing she’d anticipated when she’d been asked to come today. At best, she thought perhaps Alice had left her a little money as a severance package until she could find a new job and a place to live. She had no real idea how much Alice was worth, but from the reactions of the family, she’d been left more than a little money. Like millions.
For a girl who’d grown up poor and gone to college on a scholarship and a prayer, it was all too much to take in at once. Especially when Oliver’s steely blue eyes returned to watching her from across the table. He seemed to look right through her skin and into her soul. She felt the prickle of goose bumps rise across her flesh at the thought of being so exposed to him, but she immediately tried to shelve the sense of self-awareness he brought out in her. If he was studying her, it was only to seek out a weakness to exploit or an angle to work. He might be Harper’s brother, but he was obviously no friend to Lucy.
The spell was finally broken as he casually turned away to look at his sister. “I know she’s your friend, Harper, but you have to admit there’s something fishy about this whole thing.” Oliver’s rich baritone voice drew Lucy back into the conversation.
“Fishy, how?” Lucy asked.
“I wouldn’t blame you for influencing her to leave you something. You’re alone with her day after day. It would be easy to drop hints and convince her it was her idea to leave you everything.” Oliver’s blue eyes narrowed at her again, nearly pinning Lucy to the back of her leather chair with his casual accusation.
“Are you serious?” She repeated his earlier question. “I had no idea about any of this. We never discussed her will or her money. Not once in five years. I didn’t even know why Phillip called me in here today. I’m just as surprised as you are.”
“I highly doubt that,” Wanda muttered.
“Please, folks,” Phillip interjected. “I realize this is a shock to all of you. I wish I could say something to make things better, but the bottom line is that this is what Alice wanted. Feel free to retain a lawyer if you’re interested in challenging the will in court, but as it stands, Lucy gets everything.”
Wanda pushed up from her seat and slung her Hermès purse dramatically over her arm. “You bet I’m calling my attorney,” she said as she headed for the door. “What a waste of a fortune!”
The rest of the family shuffled out behind her until it was only Harper, Lucy and Phillip sitting at the table.
“I’m sorry about all that, Lucy,” the attorney said. “Alice should’ve prepared the family so this wasn’t such a shock to them. She probably avoided it because they’d have pressured her to change it back. With this crowd, I’d anticipate a fight. That means you won’t be able to sell the apartment and most of the accounts will likely be frozen until it’s resolved in court. Alice put a stipulation into the will that authorizes me to maintain all the expenses for the apartment and continue paying you and the housekeeper in the event the will is contested, so you won’t have to worry about any of that. I’ll do my best to get some cash available for you before her family files, but don’t go spending a bunch of it right away.”