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Authors: Nancy Robards Thompson

Accidental Heiress

BOOK: Accidental Heiress
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That she might bump into him on the street gave her a breathless thrill the likes of which she hadn't experienced since…since the last time she'd seen Henri Lejardin.

Yes, there were lots of
who, what, when, where
s she wanted to ask him. All in good time.

She was glad she'd have the opportunity to work through it before she found herself face-to-face with the man who broke her heart.

Work it out now and get over it.

“You dated him?” A.J. asked.

Margeaux shrugged. “It was a long time ago. We were just kids. We grew up next door to each other.”

“And you let him get away?” Pepper stared at her with big, astonished eyes. “Honey, are you out of your mind? If a fine man like that lived next door to me, I don't think I'd bother to leave the grounds. Except for the occasions when I found myself next door borrowing a cup of sugar. And I'm afraid I'd need lots and lots of sugar.”

Dear Reader,

I've always been intrigued by reunion stories: tales about couples who once had a connection, but for one reason or another couldn't make their relationship work the first time around. It always seems extrasweet when they meet again years later and finally get it right.

That's the case with Henri and Margeaux, the hero and heroine of
Accidental Heiress.
These childhood sweethearts never got over each other. However, even after their reunion, fate throws a few hurdles in the way. Before they get their second shot at happily ever after, they have to revisit the past and set the record straight. Doing this involves unloading some heavy baggage and entrusting each other with a life-changing secret. But, hey, baggage and secrets are no match for true love. Right?

Please let me know what you think. I love to hear from readers. You can reach me at [email protected]


Nancy Robards Thompson


Books by Nancy Robards Thompson

Silhouette Special Edition

Accidental Princess

Accidental Cinderella

The Family They Chose

Accidental Father

Accidental Heiress

Harlequin NEXT

Out with the Old, In with the New

What Happens in Paris (Stays in Paris?)


True Confessions of the Stratford Park PTA

Like Mother, Like Daughter (But in a Good Way)
     “Becoming My Mother…”

Beauty Shop Tales

An Angel in Provence


Award-winning author Nancy Robards Thompson is a sister, wife and mother who has lived the majority of her life south of the Mason-Dixon line. As the oldest sibling, she reveled in her ability to make her brother laugh at inappropriate moments, and she soon learned she could get away with it by proclaiming “What? I wasn't doing anything.” It's no wonder that upon graduating from college with a degree in journalism, she discovered that reporting “just the facts” bored her silly. Since hanging up her press pass to write novels full-time, critics have deemed her books “funny, smart and observant.” She loves chocolate, champagne, cats and art (though not necessarily in that order). When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking and doing yoga.

This book is dedicated to Claire Borkert, you are a bright light and inspiration to our family.


Caroline Phipps, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your willingness to read at a moment's notice and your spot-on editorial advice.

Teresa Brown, thank you for always being there to help lead me out of the corners I've plotted myself into.

Catherine Kean, thank you for all the years of critiquing.

Boundless gratitude to Gail Chasan and Sarah McDaniel.

I don't know what I'd do without “all y'all!”

Chapter One

argeaux, wasn't this guy your boyfriend?”

Margeaux Broussard chewed a piece of cinnamon gum and leaned against the hotel balcony rail, peering through the viewfinder of her camera, focusing on St. Michel's rocky shoreline. It had been years since she'd had a man in her life—significant or otherwise.

She pressed the shutter release button and the camera snapped a series of rapid shots. The fleeting twilight gilding St. Michel with molten
gold was too gorgeous to pass up for the man
du jour
her friend Caroline Coopersmith was talking about…on television…or somewhere in their hotel room. From Margeaux's perch on the hotel balcony, she had a breathtaking panoramic view of the landscape. The light was perfect, and it would be gone in a moment. She wanted to get these shots.


“If it is, he looks downright dangerous,”

Caroline continued.



Margeaux turned and glanced through the open balcony doors at her friend, who was sitting on the bed reading the complimentary issue of
Folio de St. Michel
magazine that had been on the coffee table in their hotel room when they'd checked in earlier that afternoon.

“Let me see,” demanded Pepper Meriweather, as she and A. J. Sherwood-Antonelli crowded onto the bed on either side of Caroline and gaped at the picture.

Margeaux turned back to the vista and snapped a few more shots, but the magical light
was already fading. At least she'd claimed the best of it.

A.J. let loose an unladylike catcall, which piqued Margeaux's curiosity enough to make her smile, turn back toward her friends and squint at the bold captions on the magazine cover. The words jumped around on the page, and Margeaux had a hard time focusing her dyslexic gaze. She stepped back into the room, refocused on the words, and redoubled her effort to read the print on the magazine cover.

it was the magazine's annual “A List” edition, a roll call of her home town's most eligible movers and shakers. Since this was the first time in sixteen years that she'd been back to St. Michel, it would be interesting to see if she knew anyone on the list. She set her camera on the table and prepared to join the ogling party.

“Oooh, dangerous and
” Pepper purred, smacking her lips as if she tasted the mystery man in her Southern-laced words. “I'll bet women fall all over themselves for a bite of those honey buns.”

“Who is it?” Margeaux asked.

A.J. thrust the periodical toward Margeaux. “Henri Lejardin. Do you know him?”

The name made Margeaux's breath hitch.

Her stomach clenched. Then the bottom of her belly nearly fell out when, there, in living color with his dark, curly hair and penetrating chocolate eyes, her first love smiled at her from the glossy pages of
Folio de St. Michel.

“Is this him?” Caroline asked.

Margeaux nodded. It was Henri, alright. All grown up and looking fine; different, but somehow still the same.

If he was on the
list, that meant he was single. It shouldn't matter after all these years, she reminded herself. But it did. Suddenly, she wanted to know everything about him—what he'd been doing all these years; who he was involved with—past and present. Where he was right this very minute. If she knew, she just might go to him and ask him all these questions and others that had plagued her all these years. The fact that she could—that for once, she could walk right out the door and go to him—that she might bump into him on the street—gave her a breathless thrill the likes of
which she hadn't experienced since…since the last time she saw Henri Lejardin.

Yes, there were lots of
who, what, when, where and whys
she wanted to ask him. All in good time.

She was bound to run into him, and she needed to prepare herself for the deluge of emotions she was certain to feel, because this simple photo in a magazine already had her hyperventilating. She was glad she'd have the opportunity to work through it before she found herself face-to-face with the man who'd broken her heart.

Work it out now and get over it.

“You dated him?” A.J. asked.

Margeaux shrugged, unable to tear her gaze away from Henri's photo. “It was a long time ago. We were just kids. We grew up next door to each other.”

“And you let him get away?” Pepper stared at her with big, astonished eyes. “Honey, are you out of your mind? If a man like that lived next door to me, I don't think I'd bother to leave the grounds. Except for the occasions when I found myself next door borrowing a cup of
sugar. And I'm afraid I'd need lots and lots of sugar.”

A.J. and Caroline murmured their agreement.

Her history with Henri was complicated. There wasn't an easy way to answer her friends' questions without awakening a lot of sleeping memories, which, her heart warned her, were much better left alone.

Margeaux had been friends with the three women since their junior year in high school at LeClaire Academy, one of the boarding schools to which her father had packed her off after her mother died. The four of them liked to joke that the reason Margeaux had raised such hell getting herself kicked out of the French boarding school she'd attended before LeClaire Academy was because she was simply making her way to Texas so that she could complete their quartet—be the fourth leg of their table.

But now that they were in St. Michel, they were a long way from Texas—and light years away from their rambunctious high school days. The four of them were like family, but the one thing Pepper, A.J. and Caroline didn't know about their friend was that she'd harbored
a secret for as long as she'd known them. And that secret, which she'd relegated to the deep recesses of her mind and heart, was doing its very best to push its way out into the golden St. Michel sun.

“I'm guessing if he's in that magazine, it means he's still local,” Pepper said. “Why don't you call him and invite him to meet us down in the casino tonight?”

Margeaux took one last wistful look at Henri's broad smile before closing the magazine and turning the figurative lock on the emotions that threatened to overwhelm her. She didn't need the sharp reminder of what happened when she allowed her heart to lead her past the point of no return. She was a grown woman now, and she had no intention of backtracking down that fateful path.

“I can't go to the casino tonight,” she said. “But you all go ahead without me. I have to go to the hospital to visit my father, and I don't know how long I'll be. If he's well enough to talk, I have a feeling we'll spend a lot of time catching up. If he's not…I'll need to sit with him.”

Her father was the reason she found herself
back in St. Michel after all this time. They'd been estranged for more years than she could count on both hands. But all it took was a call to tell her that her father was in the hospital—that he'd suffered a stroke—and she'd been on a plane to him. No more oceans between them. All the harsh words fired like weapons were forgotten. It was a new chapter. Margeaux was grateful it wasn't too late. Sure, he'd been absent from her life all those years. But one of them had to be the first to extend the olive branch.

She might as well be the one.

“You can join us after you do that,” Pepper insisted.

“Pepper, don't,” A.J. reprimanded. “This isn't a pleasure trip for Margeaux and the last thing she needs right now is you nagging her to shirk responsibility.”

Despite how much she wanted to wave off what A.J. was saying, her friend was right. Margeaux hadn't come here on vacation. Her father needed her to step up and do the right thing.

It had been so long since she'd been the good daughter—actually, had she ever attempted that
role? If she had, maybe he wouldn't have sent her away all those years ago.

Now that he was sick, all the rules were changing. She was the prodigal daughter returned home. Even though her friends had accompanied her this far, she had to make the next leg of the journey—the trip to the hospital—alone.


Henri Lejardin glanced at the screen of his BlackBerry: one missed call.

Earlier, when his phone rang, he'd been in the middle of a Musée du St. Michel staff meeting, firming up specifics for the Impressionist Retrospective's exhibition, which would celebrate the museum's centennial anniversary. It had been a long day overseeing the installation of the exhibit on loan from museums from all across Europe. The collection was set to open next week. Yet three key paintings were detained in customs, held back by a mountain of red tape Henri had yet to unravel. His career and reputation hinged on this show, and since it was coming down to the wire, he needed to focus on pulling it together.

When his brother Luc's number had appeared
on the screen, Henri had sensed what the call was about, resisted the urge to answer and let it go to voice mail.

Now that the meeting had adjourned, he remained at the conference room table and listened to his messages.

“Henri, it's Luc. Please call me as soon as possible. Margeaux Broussard is back in St. Michel.”

Henri's insides shifted like falling dominos and he tightened his grip on the phone, a visceral reaction to the news.

It was exactly the message he'd both feared and anticipated since the moment Colbert Broussard had fallen ill.

As he disconnected from voice mail and dialed Luc, Sydney James, the gallery curator, caught his eye as she lingered in the conference room doorway. A slow, seductive smile spread over her red-glossed lips as she arched a well-shaped brow.

It was a look that suggested so much more than Henri could deal with right now. In an attempt to own his composure, he shook his head and looked away. As the phone rang, he pushed away from the table in the rolling leather chair,
leaned back and stretched his legs out in front of him. A posture that suggested he was perfectly at ease. Even though he wasn't.

Fake it until you make it
had always been his motto, and it had served him well, considering he was St. Michel's youngest Minister of Arts, Culture and Education. His next goal was to become the youngest member of the Crown Council—St. Michel's version of Parliament. All in due time. First, he had to get his brother on the phone and find out the particulars of Margeaux Broussard's visit.

“Henri?” Luc's anxious voice sounded through the BlackBerry. “I've been trying to reach you.”

“I know. I'm sorry; I've been in meetings all day. I got your message. So, she's here?”

To steady himself, Henri doodled on the legal pad in the cordovan leather folio that lay open on the table.

“Yes, she is. She and three friends arrived today around eleven and they checked into a suite at the Hotel de St. Michel.”

As Henri wrote the words
Margeaux— Hotel de St. Michel,
he sensed someone read
ing over his shoulder. He looked up and there was Sydney staring down at his notes.

“Hold on a moment, Luc.” Henri closed the folio and took the phone away from his ear. “I'll catch up with you as soon as I'm finished.”

She regarded him for a moment. Her predatory gaze meandered the length of his body. She bit her bottom lip.

“I'll wait for you in the Ferdinand Gallery.”

Her proper British accent was a strange juxtaposition to the seductive glint in her wide-set green eyes, which stirred an uncomfortable,
reaction in Henri that made him want to retreat.

But he didn't. He simply frowned and shook his head—trying to remind her that he was the boss. Games like this were not okay. They'd had that discussion more than once in the month since he'd allowed the lines of propriety to blur.

True to form, Sydney winked and turned away, her snug black pencil skirt—wasn't that what they called those body-hugging contraptions that accentuated all the right curves in all the right places?—an animated reminder
of why he'd made an exception to his no-fraternizing rule for Sydney James.

She was a beautiful woman and a force to be reckoned with. There was no doubt about that. Normally, he went to great lengths to keep his personal and professional lives separate—especially when it came to getting involved with subordinates. But Sydney had a way of pushing the envelope and crossing lines—if she wasn't so damn good at her job Henri might consider having her relocated to a department not under his watch.

That would make matters so much simpler.

But the truth was he needed her. In more than one way. Certain members of the Crown Council had been breathing down his neck, suggesting it was time for him to settle down, to tidy up his personal life so that the other, more traditional, council members—namely Colbert Broussard—would take him seriously as a future Crown Council candidate.

Sydney was professional enough to bolster his reputation, sexy enough to hold his attention and smart enough to know when to turn up the heat or tone it down.

Henri resumed his phone call.

As Sydney turned the corner at the end of the long corridor that led away from the board-room, she glanced back over her shoulder and gave Henri
that look.
He might not be in love with her. But he sure did appreciate her…
What was even better was his lust was tempered by a healthy dose of respect for her. The woman had style, an Oxford education, and a way of gracefully walking that fine line between
and put-you-in-your-place business smarts.

What more could he want?

“Margeaux Broussard.”

Yes, Margeaux. Wait—

“We were talking about Margeaux,” said Luc.

BOOK: Accidental Heiress
6.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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