Bedding the Secret Heiress(8)

By: Emilie Rose

Her half brother had probably asked Gage to grill her. Careerwise, she had nothing to hide, nothing that she hadn’t put in her résumé. Still, unsure of his agenda, she chose her words carefully. “Fifty percent of the time I’m a flight instructor. The rest of the time I fly charter jets for Falcon Air.”

“What’s Falcon Air?”

He certainly had a talent for faking genuine interest while pumping her for information. “My father’s charter plane company.”

“Is he running it while you’re gone?”

She flinched as the unintentional arrow sank deep into her chest. Would the pain ever stop? “No. He recently…died. My uncle is acting as general manager.”

“My condolences.” Cool words devoid of emotion.

“What is it you do exactly, Mr.—Gage?” Not that she cared, but she’d rather talk about him than herself and risk inadvertently revealing something she shouldn’t. If word got out that her father might have committed suicide, then Falcon Air would lose business. Their clients would not be inclined to hire a company that flew faulty planes—or worse, engage a pilot who might take a deliberate header into the Everglades with them on board. And finances were iffy enough already.

“I’m a business consultant. I assess companies and make recommendations for improvements, specifically targeting ways to make them financially secure by eliminating waste and increasing productivity.”

“You do that internationally?”

“Yes. Did you decide to search for your birth mother after your father’s death?”

She stifled her frustration as he volleyed the topic back to her. “No. She came to me.”

“You must have been surprised to meet her.”

“Meet her? I don’t know what Trent told you, but I’ve known Jacqui all my life. I wasn’t aware my father’s on-again-off-again girlfriend was my mother until my eighteenth birthday when she and my father decided to share the information. I didn’t know Jacqui was married until after my father’s funeral when she told me my father wanted me to meet my sib—her other children.”

His eyes narrowed. “You’ve known Jacqueline for years?”


“What kind of mother was she? A generous one, I’ll bet.”

More innuendo. She rolled her eyes and then scanned the sky for traffic. She’d had a load of the same attitude from all but one of her half siblings. They seemed to think she was looking for handouts and a free ride, but what she wanted was something Jacqui could give her without putting a dent in the Hightower heirs’ inheritance.

“I just told you Jacqui wasn’t a mother at all. And no, she didn’t shower me with expensive gifts. My father wouldn’t have allowed it. Nor would I have accepted them.”

The disbelief written all over his face ticked her off. One, because this stranger had judged and assumed the worst of her, and two, because Trent had probably filled Gage’s ears with lies. It was one thing for her half brother to resent her and hate her guts, but it was low and crass of him to spread his poison professionally. She knew he had. Otherwise, the other HAMC employees wouldn’t give her the cold shoulder.

“Jacqueline wanted you to join Hightower Aviation?”

“This is a temporary gig. Jacqui knows I’m going back to Falcon in a few months.”

“Why a few months?”

“Why twenty questions?” she countered.

“I’m curious. Most people wouldn’t willingly walk away from the level of luxury associated with the Hightower name.”

“I’m not most people, Mr. Faulkner, and I’m not a Hightower. If we’re going to work together, you’d better get used to that. And if Trent put you up to this interrogation, then please tell him he’ll have to come to me himself for answers.”

Not that she’d ever reveal the full truth behind her presence in Knoxville. Her reasons for being here were no one’s business but hers, and she’d be damned if she’d feed Gage Faulkner anything he could carry back to Trent to be used against her. If she did, it could destroy Falcon Air, and then she’d have nothing to return home to.

Gage’s gut told him Lauren was hiding something, and his gut was never wrong.

She’d clammed up as soon as the conversation about her mother had become interesting, and no amount of questioning, subtle or otherwise, had gotten her to open up again during the flight. But getting answers was his specialty.

He flashed the ID badge Hightower Aviation had provided for him at the security guard. The man waved him through the doors to the tarmac. “Have a good trip, sir.”

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