Lindsey Hall feathered her fingers through her hair, a puzzled expression on her face. “I don’t understand. Why would Harlan Falkner leave me a house?”
“A mansion, not a house,” Leland Masters corrected. He regarded her steadily, whatever he was thinking masked behind a professional veneer he’d perfected over forty years. One of Providence, Rhode Island’s most prominent attorneys, he’d represented the Falkners’ interests since Harlan made his first million, some thirty-five years ago. Now, it was his job to carry out his client’s final wishes.
He folded his hands in front of him, a formidable presence in an equally formidable office—all gleaming mahogany and polished tile—an office that Harlan Falkner’s money had helped pay for. “You’re aware of your relationship to Mr. Falkner.”
Lindsey’s smile was tight-lipped. “My relationship? If you mean my blood ties, yes, I know Mr. Falkner fathered me. But as for a relationship, we had none. I never even met the man. He made no attempt to contact me, not in twenty-six years. So why would he suddenly leave me a portion of his estate?”
Another thoughtful stare. Yes, he could see the resemblance. The same unusual coloring: fine, tawny hair, its hues ranging from gold to light brown and, in contrast, startlingly dark eyes. The same refined manner and natural grace. And the bone structure was there, although Miss Hall was slender and delicate in contrast to Harlan’s larger, more towering presence. She probably took after her mother on that score.
She hadn’t been at the will reading. Then again, she hadn’t been invited. It was better that way. The reaction from Harlan’s children would have been explosive. As it was, it hadn’t been pleasant. It had, however, been predictable. Until last week, they hadn’t known Lindsey Hall existed.
They knew now.
“Miss Hall, I don’t think Harlan’s—your father’s—motives are the issue here. His provisions are. He left you the mansion in Newport, along with a sizable sum of money, to be used at your discretion.”
“My discretion,” she repeated, turning her palms up in noncomprehension. “What does that mean?”
“The mansion has been vacant for years. It needs to be restored. Harlan thought you might enjoy doing that. If so, a portion of your funds could be used to renovate the house in whatever manner you choose.” Leland shrugged. “If not, you’re welcome to sell it and keep the profit, along with the rest of the money he’s left you. As I said, the choice is yours.”
A flicker of anger flashed in her eyes, followed by a spark of curiosity. “Why was the mansion vacant?”
The attorney shrugged again. “It used to be a family vacation home. Circumstances changed. Lifestyles changed.” He left it at that.
“I see.” Obviously, she didn’t see at all. Nor should she. But she changed the subject nonetheless. “What about Mr. Falkner’s legitimate children? Wouldn’t he leave the mansion to them?”
Leland had anticipated that question. “He thought you’d have a greater appreciation for it, based upon your career choice.”
That was his second reference to her inclinations toward design, this one more pointed than the first.
It found its mark, and Lindsey Hall’s delicate brows rose. “Are you saying Mr. Falkner was aware I’m an architect?”
“Mr. Falkner was aware of a great many things about you, Miss Hall. Your graduation with honors from Cooper Union, your unique contributions to the architectural firm you’re currently working for in Connecticut, specifically the fine work you’ve done restoring classic old homes. Many things.”
Lindsey’s jaw dropped. “He kept tabs on me?”
“He kept abreast of your accomplishments.”
She digested that with a jolt of surprise and an obvious swell of resentment. Based on her perception of things, Leland couldn’t blame her. He could just imagine what she was thinking.
He didn’t have to imagine long.
“Talk about too much, too little, too late,” she commented bitterly. “Am I supposed to feel honored? Honored that Harlan Falkner followed my life like one of his high-yielding stocks—no, actually not as closely. In my case, no active participation was necessary. Not until now. Now, when he’s gone and my existence can no longer tarnish his family’s reputation, he’s throwing me a bone? How gracious. It sounds like a payoff, Mr. Masters. A payoff from a man with a guilty conscience.” She rose to her feet. “No mansion can compensate for Mr. Falkner’s actions. Nor can money make up for what he did—not to me, but to my mother. I notice she’s not mentioned in this will.”
Leland tipped back his head, met Lindsey’s angry gaze with a calm, steady stare. “No, she’s not.” He watched the controlled anger simmer in her eyes, and thought again how much like Harlan she looked and, perhaps, was. If she knew more, she might feel differently. But she didn’t know more.
“Before you tell me to go to hell, I’d suggest you think this over,” he advised quietly. “Separate pride from pragmatism. Between the value of the mansion and the cash, we’re talking about well over five million dollars. You can do a lot with that sum of money, Miss Hall, including anything you choose to do for your mother. She’s past fifty now. She can’t clean houses forever.”
Lindsey opened her mouth, then pressed her lips together, a war taking place inside her. She was still gripped by questions and suppressed fury. She was also a realist—like her father. She knew Leland was right.
“Don’t decide immediately,” he suggested. “Take a day or two. Think it over—all of it.”
“I’m going back to Connecticut tonight.”
“Wait for morning.” Leland reached into his desk, extracted a set of keys and a slip of paper with an address on it. “I’ve made a reservation for you at a local hotel. Spend the night. Consider your options. In the meantime, use the rest of today to take a ride out to Newport. The mansion’s less than an hour’s drive from here. This is the address. Look it over. See what you think. Stop by my office tomorrow on your way home. You can give me your answer then.” He paused, flourished a business card. “Here’s my card. Call if you need anything.”
Automatically, Lindsey took it, although she looked reluctant to do so.
“Looking costs you nothing other than time, Miss Hall. And a day might shed new perspective on what I know must be an emotional situation.”
She nodded. “Very well.” She turned to go.
“Oh, one more thing.” Leland rummaged through the papers on his desk, extracted another business card. “Here.”
“What’s this?” She frowned, taking the card. Her frown deepened as she saw the name and phone number on it. “Nicholas Warner?”
“Yes. He’s a major real estate developer in the Newport area, and a business associate of the Falkners.”
“I know who he is, Mr. Masters. His name is in the newspapers almost as often as the Falkners’.”
“True. In any case, he asked me to give you his number, just in case you decide to sell the house. He’s very interested in buying it.”
“Is he?” Lindsey’s jaw tightened. “He didn’t waste any time. Or is it just that he, like the Falkners, is so sure I’d prefer cash to property?”
Leland didn’t respond, keeping his expression nondescript. “Whether or not you call him is up to you. As for the rest, give your inheritance some thought.”
This time her nod was more definitive. “I intend to.” She turned the keys over in her palm. “I’ll ride out to Newport now. You’ll have my decision by morning.”
Leland watched her go, contemplating the ironies of life with bittersweet awareness. Then, he glanced down at the documents on his desk. “Well, Harlan,” he murmured, “I did as you asked. I think you’d be pleased with the results.”