Stranded With The Boss(6)By: Elizabeth Lane
As if sensing her gaze, he glanced toward her. In that brief instant something about the light on his face and the set of his mouth struck her like a thunderbolt.
She knew who he was.
Until today she’d never met him face-to-face. But she’d seen his photo on company bulletins when she’d worked for Trans Pacific. He was the CEO, secretly referred to as “The Dragon” in part because of his name but mostly because of his management style.
He was Dragan Markovic, the man whose company she was suing.
* * *
Dragan leveled off at ten thousand feet and eased the Porter to a cruising speed of one hundred and thirty-two miles an hour. If the weather held, they should make it to Anchorage before dark. The time included a stop in Ketchikan for refueling and maybe a quick snack, eaten on the run.
He’d been flying since his late teens and was no stranger to handling small planes. In the past couple of summers he’d flown big-money clients to the company-owned lodge on a hidden inlet northeast of Petersburg for salmon fishing. But this was his first long-distance flight in the new Porter. So far, so good. At least as far as the plane was concerned.
He glanced to the right, where his pretty, redheaded passenger sat in grim silence, hands clasped in her lap. Was she nervous about the flight or was something else bothering her?
Dragan had hoped to draw her into a conversation. But the lady wasn’t making things easy. “Are you all right?” he asked, speaking into the mike. “Not getting airsick, are you?”
“I’m fine.” He could hear the tension in her breathing. “But I can’t help wondering what you have in mind for us, Mr. Markovic.”
So she had figured it out—and she wasn’t happy.
Dragan weighed the wisdom of speaking in his own defense then rejected the idea. He’d learn more if he let her take the lead.
“Why didn’t you tell me who you were?” she demanded.
He stalled for time, checking the instrument panel. “If you’d known, would you have come with me?”
“Certainly not. I’m not even supposed to be talking to you. My lawyer would have a fit if she knew about this.” Turning in her seat, she glanced back at the twins.
“Knowing your lawyer’s reputation, I can imagine that. How are your babies doing?”
“Fine. They’re fast asleep.” She settled back into the seat. “Would you have invited me along if you’d known I came with so much baggage?”
She was sharper than he’d expected. Dragan managed an edgy laugh. “I plead the Fifth.”
“I saw the look on your face when I showed up with my twins,” she said. “You don’t like children much, do you?”
Dragan blocked the images that sprang up in his memory—sharp-boned faces, haunted eyes—images he’d spent the past twenty years trying to forget. “No comment,” he said.
“Then what do you have to say about tricking me onto your plane?” Her tongue gave a disapproving click. “You said you own the charter company...did you have something to do with my flight being canceled?”
There was no good way for him to answer, so he stayed silent.
Her voice was even frostier when she spoke again.
“Kidnapping’s a federal offense, Mr. Markovic, especially now that you’ve crossed the U.S. border. That’s Canada down below us.”
“I didn’t kidnap you. I offered you a lift to Anchorage. You accepted, and that’s exactly where we’re headed. We’ll be landing before nightfall. Call me Dragan, by the way.”
She was silent, her rose-petal lips pressed together in a thin line. Dragan could sense the tension building in her, the outrage, the fury. When the explosion came he was braced for it, but her words still stung.
“Of all the arrogant, low-down, presumptuous, high-handed tricks—” The words ended in a sputter. She stared down at her clenched hands. “How could you do this with a clear conscience? How could you just manipulate me into coming with you?”
“The question you should be asking isn’t how. It’s why.”
“All right. Why?” She gazed straight ahead into the sky-scape of drifting clouds. “Suppose you tell me.”
Dragan made a show of checking the altimeter while he thought out his answer. “There are two sides to every story,” he said. “Before we face off in front of a judge, I wanted to hear yours.”
“You could have just offered to take me out to dinner.” Her voice was flat, stubborn.