Picture of Innocence(5)

By: Jacqueline Baird

‘Damien never really got over losing his best friend.’ She did not add thanks in part to you, but she thought it. ‘He was never well afterwards. I was finishing my second year at college and tried to help, but it was no good in the end,’ she admitted. ‘Though he did begin working with my father in the business his heart wasn’t in it. Then, when my father died the following year, it was another blow to him. With my father gone Damien could not manage everything, so he decided to hire a manager to oversee the running of the business and within a year everything seemed to be getting better. Then last year Damien went on holiday to Thailand and died there.’ He had recklessly stopped taking his medication, and it still hurt Lucy to think of him. ‘So I really do know how you feel.’

Lorenzo doubted that Lucy Steadman had an inkling of his real feelings, and he wasn’t about to tell her. ‘I’m sorry for your loss,’ he said coolly. ‘But now can we get down to business—the proposed sale of Steadman’s, I believe?’

Lucy had almost forgotten the reason she was there as images of the past and this man filled her mind. Suddenly it hit her that she had not made a very good start, and the speech she had prepared had gone clean out of her head.

‘Yes—no. Not a sale—I mean, let me explain … ‘

One devilish brow arched sardonically in her direction. ‘I will give you five minutes,’ he said, and looked pointedly at his wristwatch.

He had fine black hairs on his wrist, she noted, and shook her head. What was she thinking …? Concentrate, she told herself.

‘When my father died, in accordance with his will Damien inherited the family home in Dessington and seventy-five percent of the business. I had the other twenty-five and the holiday house in Cornwall. My father was not big on equality of the sexes.’

‘I don’t need your opinions—just facts.’ Though he knew most of them. The manager in charge of the bank’s small investments had kept him informed of any development at Steadman’s over the years, but common courtesy decreed he listen to her. But now he realised the reason for the woman’s unvarnished looks and clothes. Lorenzo was all for equality of the sexes, and made a point of employing and promoting intelligent women in his organisation, but he had no time for a latter-day women’s libber who thought the world owed her a living without her having the requisite skills to earn one, and his patience was fast running out.

Lucy took a deep breath. ‘After Damien died I inherited all that was left … Manufacturing plastics is not my thing, so I was quite happy to leave the running of the place to the manager while the lawyer dealt with probate. Unfortunately it was only when the lawyer finalised everything a couple of months ago, and called me in to explain my inheritance, that I discovered my father—with Damien’s agreement—had seven years earlier made Antonio a partner in the business by selling him forty percent of the firm. I was still at boarding school at the time, and knew nothing about it, but apparently it was agreed between them all that Damien and Antonio were going to be partners in the business and run it between them when my father retired. Unfortunately Antonio died, so it was never to be.’ She sighed, and then chewed nervously on her bottom lip. This was the hard part.

She raised a hand and counted off the fingers of the other hand to help her concentrate. ‘So, after my father died I did not actually inherit twenty-five percent of the business.’ She counted off a second finger. ‘It was twenty-five percent of what was only sixty percent.’ She counted a third finger. ‘So that was twenty … no, wait … fift—’

‘Basta! Enough.’