Bedding the Secret Heiress(6)By: Emilie Rose
“Until I can get the cash flow dammed I need you to keep Lauren out of my hair and away from my mother.”
“And from your phone message I gather you believe I can do that by using Hightower Aviation’s services for free.”
Trent nodded. “Flying a private jet rather than a commercial airline will save you time. You’ve canceled our last three dinners because you claimed you needed to be in two places at once due to two of your team members being out on parental leave.”
“Right.” Yet another reason why Gage would never have children. They were a distraction. Recent family additions had turned two of his best consultants—one male, one female—into babbling, sleep-deprived fools. He wasn’t letting anyone get between him and a steady, secure income. And he didn’t want anyone depending on him.
“I can help you, and in turn, you can help me,” Trent added. “If I don’t cut off the money leak, then Mom could be tempted to dip into Hightower Aviation funds the way my father did. For the next two or three months you’ll be out of town more than in. If Lauren is your pilot, she will be, too. That works for me.”
Gage’s collar suddenly felt like a noose. As convenient as having a plane at his beck and call might be, he’d never been comfortable with the freeloader role—a circumstance Trent knew only too well. “Faulkner Consultants can afford HAMC’s services. Draw up a contract.”
“No way. We both know how you feel about large capital expenses. I explained on the message machine before you came in. This one’s on me.”
“You laid out a sketchy plan, but there’s more involved here than you let on.”
“Damn it, Gage, get the chip off your shoulder. How many times do I have to tell you that you don’t owe me or my family anything? Trust me on this. If you can occupy Lauren for a couple of months, I’ll owe you. Keeping the parasite away from my mother is going to save me more money in the long run than you leasing a plane or buying fractional ownership in one is going to generate.”
Gage’s molars ground together. He’d swallowed more humble pie than he could handle in a lifetime. Never again. “Trent—”
“I need your help, man. Don’t make me beg.”
Gage ran a hand over the tense muscles of his neck. “Then we do it my way. Draw up a short-term contract. If it saves me time and money, then I’ll renew when the term ends. If not, I’ll at least know I paid my way.”
Trent’s jaw jacked up. “That’s not necessary.”
“It is for me.”
Trent’s mouth opened, but closed again without further argument. “Fine. If you can manage to find out Lauren’s intentions while you’re at it, that would be even better.”
Gage recoiled. He’d been waiting thirteen years for an opportunity to repay the debt he owed his former college roommate, but there were some boundaries he wouldn’t cross even for his best friend. “I won’t be your snitch.”
“I’m not asking you to sleep with her or marry her to get information. Just find out how long she intends to be a boil on my ass.”
“If Lauren is the mercenary bitch you claim, then I’ll tell you what you need to know to protect yourself and your assets. But that’s it. Nothing more.”
Trent’s brow creased as he considered Gage’s offer. “Deal.”
The rasp of a suit-clad leg brushing her shoulder shattered Lauren’s concentration. She looked up from entering data into the navigation screen as Gage squeezed through the narrow opening between the cockpit and passenger cabin.
“Mr. Faulkner, we’re about to take off. Please go back to your seat and buckle in.”
“Call me Gage, and I prefer sitting up front.” He folded into the copilot chair on her right.
“I’d rather you stay in the passenger cabin.”
He reached for the seat belt and clicked it in place. “Are you afraid I’ll see you skip a step in preflight preparations, Lauren?”
Her teeth clicked together. He’d been an aggravation from the moment he’d insisted on carrying his own bags on board. The HAMC rulebook stated that her job as pilot was to greet each passenger and personally carry on and properly stow any weighted objects they brought along. The last thing she needed to do was give her half brother a stupid infraction to use against her.
“I never skip steps.”
“Good. Do you have a spare headset?”
The mercury in her mental thermometer climbed and her ears burned. “We’re flying a Cessna Mustang because you wanted to work on the way to Baton Rouge in the luxury of a spacious cabin. You even requested no flight attendant on board so you wouldn’t have interruptions.”