Stranded With The Boss(8)

By: Elizabeth Lane

 “It’s easy. Missy has a little mole on her ear. But even without that, once you get to know them, you can tell by their personalities. Missy’s the snuggly one. Maddie’s the little explorer. Turn your back and she’s gone. Now that they know their own names, it’s even easier to tell which one is which.”

 He paused a moment, as if weighing the next question. “Would it be too personal if I asked about their father?”

 Yes, Tessa wanted to say. But if she gave a dismissive answer, he might imagine that the full story was something he could use against her, like a married lover or a pick-up in a bar. The truth would serve her best.

 “He was my fiancé, a journalist. We’d planned to get married when he came back from his assignment in the Middle East.” Tessa swallowed the lump that rose in her throat. Even after two years it hurt to talk about Kevin. “He was killed in Yemen, in a car bombing. At the time it happened, I didn’t even know I was pregnant.”

 “I’m sorry.”

 “After he died, I didn’t want to go on. But my babies pulled me through. They gave me something to live for.”

 “You’ve been through a rough time.”

 “Rough in more ways than you can imagine. That’s the reason I’m suing your company.”

 * * *

 Her words silenced Dragan like the click of a closing door. For now, it was time to back off. She’d be more likely to open up about her side of the lawsuit if he kept things friendly and didn’t push her.

 He’d already learned a few things about Tessa Randall. She struck him as an honest woman, interested in more than just grabbing easy money. But what part did her pretty face and seductive figure play in his assessment? Was he thinking like a CEO, protecting his company’s reputation, or did he just want to lure the lady into his bed?

 Clouds were moving in along the coastline, but the sky ahead looked clear. Like any competent pilot, Dragan had checked the weather forecast before taking off. There was a storm brewing out in the Pacific, but it shouldn’t make landfall before tomorrow morning. He had an ample window of time for the flight to Anchorage; and the Porter was performing beautifully, its engine purring like a contented cat.

 There was no way to explain the premonition that ran along his spine like the stroke of an icy fingertip; the sense that something dire was about to happen. It was a feeling Dragan recognized from his boyhood years in Sarajevo when shells and mortars would rain out of the sky to explode in hellish bursts of flame. Back then, that danger sense had kept him alive. But why should he feel it now? Everything was fine.

 By the time they sighted Ketchikan the twins were awake and fussing. The floats skimmed the water as Dragan landed the plane and taxied to the fuel dock by the small airport. Across the harbor, the town lay along the narrow edge of pine-forested mountains. Autumn was already setting in. The cruise ships were gone, the dockside souvenir shops closed. Fishing boats plied the waters for the last of the seasonal catch.

 While Tessa changed her little girls and fed them snacks from her bag, Dragan ordered the tank filled and walked uphill to the terminal to pay for the fuel. At the snack bar he picked up a couple of sandwiches and some bottled water. On his return, he found Tessa sitting in the cockpit, her babies once more buckled into their safety seats.

 “Hungry?” He held up the wrapped sandwiches. “Chicken or ham and cheese. Your choice.”

 “Either one, thanks. But first I could use a restroom. And I need to dump these somewhere.” She held up a plastic bag sagging with the damp weight of what smelled suspiciously like dirty diapers. “Could you keep an eye on my girls for a few minutes? I’ll be right back.”

 Without waiting for an answer she opened the passenger-side door, climbed down to the float and stepped onto the dock. Dragan watched as she tossed the bagged disposable diapers into a trash can and strode up the long ramp to the terminal, her purse slung over her shoulder.

 As he wolfed down the ham sandwich, Dragan watched her, admiring the confidence in her long, easy strides. She was a strong woman. She would have to be, to survive what she’d been through. And she was intelligent. He liked smart women—the bland, clingy ones were no challenge. The thought of getting Tessa Randall into bed and driving her wild with pleasure was enough to stoke a simmering blaze in his loins. But it was time for a dash of cold water. He couldn’t let his attraction to her distract him from why they were there. Tessa and her lawyer were out to drag the name of his company through the mud. He’d be a fool to let himself forget that.

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