Bedding the Secret Heiress

By: Emilie Rose

One




H ere we go again.

Lauren expelled an exasperated breath and punched the elevator button for the top floor. Getting called to her half brother’s office was a lot like the way she imagined getting called to the principal’s office might have been if she’d ever dared to get into trouble in school.

Trent didn’t want her here—an opinion he’d made abundantly clear in the six weeks since their mother had used her position as president of the board of directors and the company’s largest stockholder to force him to hire Lauren as a pilot for Hightower Aviation Management Corporation.

Trent couldn’t fire her, but he’d done everything in his power to make her quit. He seemed to relish personally doling out lousy assignments no one else wanted: the obnoxious clients, red-eye flights and landings at substandard airports. Today’s summons was bound to deliver more of the same. But he’d soon learn she could handle anything he dished out.

The elevator stopped on the third floor and two suit-clad women boarded. Security badges labeled them HAMC employees. Their cool gazes raked Lauren’s clothing, making her wish she’d taken time to don her pilot’s uniform, but she could hardly ride her Harley in a skirt. And if these two had received a memo from her half brother ordering them to make her work life a living hell, they’d discover she didn’t care.

She’d never had anyone hate her before, but besides the chill factor from other employees, she had three of her four newly discovered half siblings wishing she’d disappear. Who could blame them? She was a walking, talking reminder of their mother’s infidelity, the child Jacqueline Hightower had borne to her pilot lover while still married to their father, an embarrassing dirty secret Jacqui had managed to keep tucked away in another state for twenty-five years.

The door opened on the tenth floor and the sour-faced women disembarked. As the doors closed again Lauren fought the urge to hit the down button, go back to Florida and forget her new family. Too bad the Hightowers, bless their cold, moneygrubbing hearts, were the only relatives she had left. For her father’s sake, for Falcon Air’s sake, she’d suck it up and deal with any and all unpleasant attitudes until she had the information about her father’s death that only her mother could provide.

Had he committed suicide or had his crash been an accident? Her mother had been the last to talk to him. If he’d been considering something so desperate, surely he’d have given Jacqui some clues? But, damn her, Jacqui wasn’t talking. And until the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board and the insurance company finished their investigations Lauren’s hands were bound by red tape.

She didn’t want to believe her father had deliberately ended his life, but the alternative was even more horrific. She’d helped him build the experimental plane he’d crashed. If his accident had been caused by an equipment failure, then she could be partly to blame.

Grief and guilt squeezed her lungs and burned her throat. She swallowed the caustic emotions. The elevator doors opened to the executive floor. She took a deep, bracing breath and readied herself for yet another battle.

Only for you, Daddy.

Tucking her riding gloves into the motorcycle helmet dangling from her fingertips, she stepped out of the compartment. Her lug-soled Harley boots sank into thick carpeting, another reminder that she wasn’t in Daytona anymore. The luxurious Hightower high-rise was a far cry from the concrete floors and drafty metal hangars she’d grown up in.

She stretched her lips into as big a smile as she could muster and unzipped her jacket as she approached “The Sphinx’s” desk. Getting her brother’s administrative assistant to crack an expression—any expression—had become a mission. No success this time, either. The woman should play poker for a living.

“Hi, Becky. The boss wants to see me.” Becky—a warm and friendly name for a cold woman. Talk about irony.

Becky looked pointedly at her watch. “I’ll inform him you’ve finally arrived.”

Lauren bit her tongue. Trent was lucky she’d answered her cell phone once she’d recognized his office number on caller ID. But she was making an effort to be civil.

She studied the fresh-cut flower arrangement on the credenza while Becky did her thing. The massive bouquet had probably cost as much as an hour’s worth of jet fuel. Pretty, but a total waste of money, in Lauren’s opinion.

“You may go in.” Becky’s stiff words pulled Lauren’s attention away from the cloying blooms that reminded her of her father’s funeral.

Such formality. Back home Lauren had knocked and entered her father’s and Uncle Lou’s offices at Falcon Air without playing the stupid Simon Says game. They’d had no secrets…or so she’d thought.

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