Hours later, Lia collapsed into a seat at a table in the Terrace Bar on the fourth floor of Harrods. Her feet were killing her, but she was surprised to find she’d actually enjoyed herself. Hopefully it was just novelty value, as she was sure it could become a very expensive hobby.
Maggie ordered lobster Caesar salad and champagne cocktails for both of them. “Here’s to rich men,” she said, lifting her glass. “May they never run out of money.”
Lia raised her glass and clinked it against Maggie’s. She had come to appreciate the other woman’s sense of humor over the past couple of hours; Maggie was quick-witted, kept up a constant stream of incisive comments about the other customers, and she definitely knew about clothes. The dress she had chosen for Lia was perfect; even Lia could see that. It was long, very simple, and midnight blue, which according to Maggie brought out the color in her eyes.
Lia took a sip of the icy cold drink. It was delicious. She put down her glass. “So Maggie, did you know my father?”
“Not really.” Maggie’s tone was wary.
“But you must have, if you knew my mother.”
“I told you—I knew of your mother—I didn’t know her. Look, love, I’m sorry, but I can’t talk about your father.”
Lia’s brows drew together. “Why not?”
“Let’s just say I made a promise and leave it at that.”
“A promise? To whom?” It was a stupid question, really. Who could it have been but Luc?
“Change the subject, Lia.”
Obviously, she was going to get nothing out of Maggie about her father. Why had Luc told her not to talk about him? Why was it such a big secret?
“So tell me about Luc’s mother then. Luc said you were friends.”
“Isabella was a beauty.” Maggie was obviously happy to talk about Luc’s family if not Lia’s. “She was wasted on Luc’s dad. Her family pretty much disowned her, or she disowned them, when she took up with him.”
“What was his father like?”
“No good. He was also married at the time, never did get around to marrying Bella. But she loved him. He had some of Luc’s looks—his eyes.” She shivered dramatically. “A woman would put up with a lot of crap for eyes like those, not to mention the rest of his assets.”
“It sounds like you knew her really well.”
“Yeah, well, Bella wasn’t like your mum, she was real friendly. She didn’t mind what I was.”
Lia studied her curiously. “Just what was it you did back then, Maggie?”
“I was a prostitute, and not a particularly high-class one at that.” She smiled at Lia’s obvious shock. “Close your mouth, Lia.”
“But…” She tried to marshal her thoughts. “But you’re so…classy.”
“Thanks, but I wasn’t always like this. It was Luc who helped me. When he started making money, he helped all his old friends. All the people who had stood by him when he got into trouble.”
“Trouble?” That sounded interesting. “What sort of trouble?”
Maggie shifted and glanced away. “Oh, nothing bad. Luc just went a little wild after his father died, but he soon settled down. Bella had gone back to her family in Italy by then. They tried to help Luc, but he was determined to make it on his own.” She grinned. “He told them he would accept their help after he made his first million. And he did—he was always determined. Anyway, after that he bought the club for Harley, set me up in business.”
“What sort of business?”
“Oh, I don’t pull tricks anymore. I’m a respectable businesswoman. I run an escort agency. Real upmarket. I don’t say that none of my girls offer extras, but that’s up to them.” She took a sip of her drink and viewed Lia over the rim of her glass. “Interested in Luc, are you?” Maggie asked. “I don’t blame you. Luc’s gorgeous, always was.”
“Have you known him long?”
“Since he was born. He was a beautiful child.” She smiled at some memory. “Very precocious.”
What did that mean? “Sometimes, I don’t think he likes me much.”
“Well, you’re his type, that’s for sure. And that might be the problem. He had a real classy girlfriend a long time ago. She looked a lot like you, and she dumped him when he got into...”
“Never mind. You’ve got it pretty bad, haven’t you?”
“No, I haven’t,” Lia protested, but Maggie just smiled.
“He is gorgeous,” she said, “and all my girls go through it, but they’re a tough lot and realistic about life.”
“I’m tough,” Lia muttered, feeling a little offended.
Maggie grinned and patted her cheek. “Of course you are.”
They walked back to the apartment together, but Maggie refused Lia’s offers of a drink or dinner or just about anything that would keep Lia from being alone with Luc. Maggie was about to walk away, but at the last moment turned back.
“Look, love...” Maggie paused as though unsure as to whether to go on. Then she shrugged. “You’re a nice girl. I like you, and I never expected to, so I’ll give you some advice. Be careful. Don’t fall for Luc. I’m not sure what you’re doing here with him, or what Luc is planning, but I know Luc, and I knew of your father. And I don’t see how anything good can come of this.”
“You can’t leave it at that,” Lia said. “Please, tell me why Luc wants to find my father.”
Maggie shook her head. “That’s up to Luc to tell you. I’ll send a couple of my girls over on Saturday, help you get ready, do your nails, that sort of thing.” She leaned across and kissed Lia on the cheek, and then she was gone.
Lia sat, curled up on the cream leather sofa going over what Maggie had said, when Luke arrived home. He was dressed in a dark business suit and appeared cool and remote.
“So how did your day go with Maggie?” he asked.
“Fine, I liked her. We found a really beautiful gown and a whole load to talk about.”
Luc raised an eyebrow.
“She said you were precocious,” Lia said to his unspoken question. He smiled a slow, reminiscent smile, and her eyes narrowed. “Just how precocious were you, Luc?”
He took off his suit jacket, flung it on the back of the chair, and sank down opposite her, his long legs stretched out, his head against the back of the seat. He was lost in thought for a moment then he looked at her. “I lost my virginity to Maggie on my fifteenth birthday.”