“Fear, I guess. It’s odd considering she seemed like the most fearless and exciting person I’d ever known. I sometimes wonder what she would’ve been like if her fiancé hadn’t died. If she’d had a family. Would she still have closed herself off the way she did? I don’t know. I hated it, though. I hated seeing that light in her extinguish.”
The waiter appeared with their tray of meat and started to cook the first portion on the grill, effectively ending that line of conversation. Lucy was glad. Learning about Alice was enlightening, but also sad. There was a good reason why her employer hadn’t talked about her past. She’d lost her chance at love and chosen to spend the rest of her life alone rather than be with someone else. Whether it was incredibly romantic or just sad, Lucy didn’t know. But at the rate her love life was going, she might end up alone, too.
The server expertly flipped the meat, putting the finished pieces on their plates and explaining the different sides she’d been eyeing earlier. Once he was gone, they started eating and Oliver tossed a few raw pieces of Korean short ribs onto the grill to eat next.
Lucy watched him as he ate, thinking about their interactions since Alice died. She was a little ashamed of herself after everything she’d said and done. Yes, he was determined to prove she was a scam artist, but what did he know of her? Nothing. And she knew nothing of him. Or Alice, apparently. But she could tell that he had genuinely cared for his aunt. He couldn’t fake the affection that reflected in his blue eyes when he spoke about her.
“Oliver, I want to apologize.”
He paused, his food hanging midair on the end of his fork. “Apologize for what?”
“For judging you so harshly. For judging your whole family. All these years, I had this burning resentment for all of you. Sometimes I’d see Alice sitting in her chair looking at family photos and it ate me up inside that no one ever came to visit. She seemed so lonely and I felt like everyone had abandoned her for some reason.”
Lucy shook her head and felt her cheeks start to flush with embarrassment. When she tilted her head up and looked him in the eye, the softness of his expression took away the last of her worries. She wasn’t sure what she’d expected from Oliver, but it wasn’t patience and understanding.
“That’s why I lashed out at the reading of the will. When all these people showed up after her death, it felt like circling sharks drawn by chum in the water. Now I realize that it was how Alice wanted it. Or at least, how she needed it to be. So I’m sorry for anything ugly I said to you about all that.”
Oliver held her gaze for a moment before smiling and popping a bite of food into his mouth. “It was an easy assumption to make,” he said after swallowing. “I think we’re all guilty of doing that to some extent, don’t you?”
His gaze was fixed on her, with almost a pleading expression on his face. He wasn’t going to apologize for the things he’d accused her of, but maybe this was his way of acknowledging that perhaps he’d judged her too harshly as well. It didn’t mean he was going to call off his lawyers, but maybe he wouldn’t show up at the apartment to give her the third degree any longer.
“A truce, then?” Lucy asked, lifting her soda and holding her breath. While she would be glad to put an end to the fighting, she worried what could happen between the two of them without it keeping them apart. It was a dangerous proposition, but a part of her was anxious for him to say yes.
Oliver smiled and lifted his wine to clink her glass. “A truce.”
“Welcome, Mr. Drake. So good of you to join us this evening.”
Oliver strolled into the Museum of Modern Art and stopped as he was greeted by a table of committee members organizing the charity event. The older woman who stood to welcome him looked familiar, but he couldn’t place her.
“I am so sorry to hear about your aunt,” she said. “She was a valued patron to the museum and the art world as a whole.”
He nodded politely. “Thank you.” Turning to the table where a young male volunteer was checking off guests on the attendee list, he leaned in. “Can you tell me if Miss Campbell has already arrived?”
“She has.” The young man beamed. Apparently he was a fan of her new outfit, too.
They directed him up the short staircase to the second-floor atrium where the main portion of the event was taking place. At the top of the stairs, a waiter with a large silver tray offered him a flute of champagne, and he accepted. This type of event was not his idea of a good time, but at least there was alcohol involved. It helped to open people’s pocketbooks, he was fairly certain.