Stranded With The Boss(4)By: Elizabeth Lane
Turning toward the window, Dragan surveyed the thirty-six-foot craft from its single turbo propeller and fifty-two-foot overhead wing to its gleaming tail. The Swiss-built Pilatus P-6, known as the Porter, was engineered for short-distance takeoffs and landings, making it ideal for Alaska. This one was just out of the shop, where it had been custom fitted with floats above the wheels and heavy-duty tires for landing on rough ground. With these additions, the plane could take him almost anywhere he wished. Dragan looked forward to trying out his new toy, especially with a sexy redheaded passenger aboard.
But this wasn’t a pleasure trip, he reminded himself. If he couldn’t charm Miss Tessa Randall into a fair settlement of her lawsuit, they’d be facing each other in court.
If it came to that, the gloves would be off. His lawyers would use every dirty trick in the book to discredit her. And her attorney, Helen Carmichael, whose reputation as a feminist ball-buster was widely known, would do her damnedest to portray Trans Pacific as a company that exploited women and cast them aside in their time of need. No matter the outcome, a court battle was bound to be ugly—unless the delicious Miss Randall agreed to settle.
Had she recognized the stranger who’d offered her a flight? Since she’d showed no sign of it, Dragan could only conclude that she hadn’t realized who he was. That in itself wasn’t surprising. Trans Pacific was a huge company. As its CEO he tended to work behind the scenes, dealing only with upper-level supervisors. He couldn’t say for sure if he’d even visited the Anchorage offices in the years she worked there.
She was bound to learn the truth about his identity eventually. But it might be wise to keep it from her until they were in the air. Otherwise, all this trouble—tracking her plans and then showing up here in time to cancel her charter and offer his services—could be for nothing.
He glanced at his watch. Miss Randall had been gone several minutes. She was probably just in the ladies’ room, but he needed her to hurry. The fog was rolling in across the Sound. For safety’s sake, he needed to take off and get above it before the airport became blanketed in a cloud of gray-white mist.
He was about to go looking for her when he heard the ring of her low-heeled pumps on the tiled floor. Relieved, he turned toward the sound—and stopped cold, as if he’d run into a concrete wall.
Dragan had always prided himself on being able to handle any situation. But, heaven help him, he wasn’t prepared to handle this.
Tessa Randall was pushing a baby stroller—one of those ungainly contraptions with two seats side by side. Strapped into those seats, their cornflower eyes taking his measure as if sizing up their next victim, were two toddler-size girls with hair as red as their mother’s.
Tessa caught the displeasure—and the surprising flicker of panic—in the stranger’s glacial eyes. Most people dissolved into smiles and silly talk at the sight of her adorable twins. But this man was staring at them as if she’d just wheeled in a pair of ticking bombs.
He cleared his throat in the silence. “Well, this is unexpected,” he said.
Tessa lifted her chin to meet his gaze. “It’s not like I can just leave them behind. And you did tell me you had plenty of room.”
He exhaled a long breath as if mentally counting to ten. “So I did. Your bags are already on the plane. But I don’t know if that big stroller will fit. And you can’t hold your babies on the flight or let them run loose. They’ll need to be strapped into the rear seats. Can you manage that?”
“No problem. Their stroller seats double as car seats. They can be lifted free and buckled into place. With the seats gone, the stroller folds flat.”
“I see.” He glanced at the twins.
Maddie was struggling to wiggle out of her harness but Missy returned his gaze, looking up at him with a smile that would melt a heart of ice.
This stranger’s heart, however, must’ve been carved from solid granite. “We’re wasting time,” he growled, turning away. “Weather’s moving in. Let’s get going.”
He held the door while Tessa pushed the stroller outside to the nearby plane. The sleek silver-white craft, with its long, tapered nose, looked new and expensive. During her six years of work in Anchorage, she’d seen plenty of bush planes—mostly Beavers, Otters, Cessnas and Pipers—but never one quite like this, with a custom undercarriage that featured both floats and wheels.
He opened the passenger door. “Unfasten the stroller seats. Then climb in. I’ll pass them up to you.”