His Most Exquisite Conquest
other women he’d brought here had always been spot on.
    Jack was only too pleased to show Lucy anything. He was clearly very taken by her. Most men would be, Michael thought, no matter how old. The honey bee... Lester’s name for her slid into his mind again and he frowned as Lucy and Jack left the veranda together. Lester had given it a sexual connotation, but Lucy had not been consciously sexy over afternoon tea. She was simply...very appealingly female.
    ‘What’s wrong, Mickey?’ Sarah asked quietly.
    He shook his head. ‘Just a problem I have.’
    ‘To do with Lucy?’
    ‘What do you think of her, Sarah?’
    ‘A joy to be with,’ she answered with a smile.
    ‘Yes,’ he agreed. ‘Anything else?’
    Sarah mused for a few moments before remarking, ‘She’s quite different from the other women you’ve brought over here. More spontaneous, artless...’
    ‘Not a scheming gold-digger?’ he pressed.
    Sarah looked shocked. ‘Not at all! Has she done anything to make you think it?’
    ‘I am a very wealthy man,’ he said drily.
    ‘That can be intimidating to a girl like Lucy, Mickey,’ she quickly argued. ‘It can make her think she’s not good enough for you.’
    ‘She’s beautiful. She’s sexy. She’s fun. That’s a fairly good trade-off, Sarah.’
    ‘If you have a lot of self-esteem, and I don’t think she has,’ Sarah replied thoughtfully. ‘There’s not much ego running around in that girl. She focuses on other people, doesn’t want the spotlight turned on herself.’
    ‘Because she’s hiding something?’ Michael queried, wondering if that was the case.
    ‘I don’t know. Her comment about being fairy floss compared to her sister made me think she knew she could never compete with Elizabeth, possibly from an early age. So she conceded all that ground and chose a different path for herself—one that didn’t demand more than she felt capable of doing.’
    ‘She is the younger sister. Elizabeth called her ditzy,’ Michael recalled.
    Sarah shot him an ironic smile. ‘That’s probably a good cover for feeling inadequate.’
    He frowned over that possibility. ‘I doubt Lucy feels inadequate. She’s held quite an amazing array of jobs—model, beautician, tour guide, dancing teacher, amongst other things. It’s as though she’s drawn to try anything and everything. She dropped out of school to nurse her mother, who died of cancer, and never went back to complete any formal education—said she had no head for study after that. But I think she manages to do quite well for herself.’
    ‘Where was Elizabeth when her mother was dying?’
    ‘At home. Already at business college, so I imagine Lucy did the bulk of the nursing.’
    ‘While Elizabeth prepared to take on the future.’ Sarah nodded in understanding. ‘Would you say the sisters are close?’
    ‘Yes. Very different but very close. Lucy called Elizabeth her anchor.’
    ‘When she feels adrift...that’s what she said about visiting her mother’s grave.’ Sarah gave Michael a very direct look. ‘You don’t have a scheming gold-digger on your hands, Mickey. I’d say if Lucy is hiding anything, it’s something she feels very vulnerable about. Be careful how you treat her.’ His friend’s serious expression cracked into a smile. ‘She sees you as a prince.’
    Michael grinned at her. ‘Until I turn into a frog. According to Lucy, most princes eventually turn into frogs.’
    Sarah laughed. ‘She is a delight, that girl! In some ways, she’s very like your mother. A joy to be with.’
    It was exactly what had been missing from his life, ever since his mother had died.
    That was the chord Lucy struck in him—a much deeper need than the lust she stirred. A need for that emptiness to be filled.
    ‘It’s been good talking to you, Sarah,’ he said appreciatively.
    Someone he could trust.
    Someone who would never lie to him.
    He needed that, too.
    If Lucy was covering up something she didn’t want him to know,

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