"Incredibly obvious," he decided, his clever, mobile features lit by a devilish smile, "but that'swhat I want tonight. It's no good to be subtle with a rich establishment businessman. He'll haveto be hit on the head before he gets the point, and this dress will do it.""Honestly, Joel!" Anne smiled affectionately, long since accustomed to Joel's spells of intense butobscure enthusiasm. "What rich establishment businessman?""The one coming tonight," he explained absently, dropping the dress on the bed and beginning toexperiment with her hair. "Something simple, virginal…very pure," he mused, gathering up her long, light brown curls, trying them in a knot on the back of her head. "An Alice hand, perhaps,or the silk flowers…'"Joel," she tried again, a little more firmly, but with no effect."Yeti, pulled back with the silk flowers…' He released her hair. "What is it, Annie?" he asked,finally connecting wish her."Please explain about this rich establishment businessman.""The richest," he told her with another devilish smile. "The richest, the most established you'reever likely to be able to work on for me. It's the answer to our prayers, darling Annie. Thea'sfinally talked her sainted cousin into coming here, and he's coming tonight!""Who? Nicholas Thayer?" Anne asked. "Are you sure he's real, and not just Thea talking a goodgame?""Oh, Thea talks a good game," Joel allowed tolerantly, "but that doesn't make her cousin any lessreal. Nick Thayer is richer than sin, and a collector of some stature. It's about time he had the funof providing financial backing for the next new and exciting an gallery in SoHo.""And he'll be here tonight?" Anne was suddenly optimistic, infected by Joel's excitement. "You'resure?""Dead sure. He promised Thea. You see, he inherited all the family money, which was tough luck for Thea and for me too, because she'd have given me what I need in a minute. But old Nick occasionally gets a case of the quilts where Thea's concerned, then he rouses himself to dosomething nice for her.""And coming here tonight is to be his latest something nice for Thea?""No. Putting up the money for my gallery is to be his latest something nice for Thea," Joelcorrected with the sublime egocentricity of genius. "He'll do it too, if you do as I say. For starters, it's your job to charm him-as he's never been charmed before. And you can do it, darlingAnnie," he continued, seizing her hands. "I know you can. I've done such a marvellous job of transforming you that Nick Thayer won't be able to resist you! Lord knows, I can't," he teased,smiling as he dropped a brief kiss on her cheek.Anne sensed Nicholas Thayer's presence behind her even before he spoke. A couple of minutesearlier, as she had turned to study one of the paintings on display, she had seen him start acrossthe loft towards her. She had judged to a nicety how long it would take a man of his impressivestature and bearing to work his way through the crowd, and now she knew he was standing behind her. Two can play at this game, she thought, motionless during the long count of hissilence.She had a sixth sense about people and their intentions, a sensitivity acquired during the painfulyears when she had been unloved and unwanted. She'd been a freak then, the badly dressed andawkward girl who didn't belong, who had always been desperately anxious to know what peoplewere thinking of her. Now, thanks to Joel, all that was behind her, and she gladly used her gift toserve him.