Bedding the Secret Heiress(5)

By: Emilie Rose

“Half sister,” Trent corrected. “And the only reason I believe that is because I had a DNA test done during her employment screening process.”

“Is that legal and does Lauren know?”

“I doubt she knows, but she signed a waiver allowing us to test for whatever we wanted when she took the job. I tested for everything.”

“She came up clean?”

“Unfortunately. Ditching her would have been much easier if her drug tests or background check had revealed even a hint of something questionable. Hell, even her credit history is clear.”

Trent really had it in for the girl, but he’d never been the type to overreact or jump to conclusions. Because of his family’s wealth Trent had always been a target for gold diggers, and his radar for them was unmatched. He must have good cause for his suspicions about Lauren.

“You’ve asked your mother about the cash?”

Trent nodded. “And she locked up tighter than Fort Knox. If she has nothing to hide, then why keep secrets?”

“I hear you.” But Gage lived by the opposite theory. He didn’t believe in revealing anything unless required. “What about Lauren? Did you ask her why she relocated?”

“Lauren gave me some bullshit about her father wanting her to meet her Hightower siblings as a reason for her move to Knoxville, and she claims she knows nothing about the money.”

“Why wouldn’t your mother have given Lauren money sooner? Why wait twenty-five years?”

“Maybe Mom didn’t know where Lauren was or she could have been giving her smaller amounts over the years that didn’t catch the accountant’s notice. But we never heard a whisper about Mom’s little mistake until she showed up on our doorstep, pilot credentials in hand and expecting to waltz into a job. Do you know how selective Hightower Aviation is in hiring?”

“Lauren doesn’t meet your standards?”

Trent’s scowl deepened. “Other than her lack of a college degree, she exceeds them. But, Gage, she’s too damned young to have the résumé she’s claiming. I just haven’t been able to prove she’s lying. Hell, I’ve checked and rechecked her credentials and put her through a battery of physical and mental testing, looking for any reason to reject her. I even forced her to sit through hours of training in a flight simulator before allowing her in a real cockpit. But the little smart-ass aced all the tests and refused to quit.”

That earned her a dose of grudging respect. “Maybe she’s simply a good pilot.”

“Nobody’s that good at that age.”

“You were.”

Trent’s entire body tensed and Gage regretted his words. Trent had practically been raised in a cockpit. He’d been eager to join the Air Force as a pilot after college, but his father had nearly destroyed HAMC by incurring gambling debts that had jeopardized the company. Trent had been forced to abandon his military career plans to clean up his father’s mess. By the time he’d dug HAMC out of the negative spiral Trent’s dream had been supplanted by the necessity of remaining CEO of HAMC.

“I apologize. I shouldn’t have brought that up.”

“Forget it. It was a long time ago. I’m over it.” Trent cleared his throat. “Here’s what I know. My mother hid her pregnancy then gave Lauren up for adoption to her natural father rather than tell my father she’d gotten knocked up by one of her lovers.”

“Your father must have known. As Jacqueline’s husband he would have been Lauren’s legal father despite her biological paternity. He would have had to agree to relinquish.”

Trent raked a hand through hair a shade lighter than his half sister’s dirty blond. “Dad claims he doesn’t remember the ‘incident’ or signing any forms. My guess is he would have done anything to keep my mother funding his gambling addiction. Remember, HAMC was a smaller operation back then, and the majority of Hightower money came from my mother’s family. Consequently, Dad turned a blind eye to all her affairs. My grandfather probably greased the wheels to keep things quiet.”

“All valid points.” But despite her biker gear and attitude, Lauren didn’t give off the greedy bitch vibe. “Lauren doesn’t look like a woman being showered with gifts from a wealthy benefactress. She’s not wearing jewelry, makeup or designer clothes.”

“She drives a twenty-thousand-dollar motorcycle, a sixty-thousand-dollar truck and flies a quarter-million-dollar airplane. What does that tell you?”

That she’d fooled him. But hadn’t he learned the hard way that women often promised one thing and schemed to get something else altogether? Gage’s anger stirred. “She’s damned good at hiding her avaricious nature. But I repeat, what does this have to do with me?”

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