Bedding the Secret Heiress(9)

By: Emilie Rose



Gage nodded his thanks, exited the terminal of the small suburban airport and approached the jet. Trent had been right. Traveling via private carrier was a lot less hassle than flying a commercial airline. Faster in, faster out allowed for more time on the job and less in transit. Gage had to admit he liked the efficiency.

Tired, but satisfied with the preliminary information he’d gathered on the project he’d come to Baton Rouge to assess, he checked his watch. Because of the security check-in time savings he was an hour early. When he’d left Lauren seven hours ago she hadn’t seemed concerned at being stranded with nothing to do for the majority of the day. In fact, her eyes had sparkled and her body had practically vibrated with excitement as if she couldn’t wait to be rid of him. Not a common occurrence for him. Women—when he made time for them—enjoyed his company.

But not Lauren.

She’d given him her cell number and asked him to call when he finished his business and headed toward the airport, claiming it would allow her to prepare the plane for takeoff before he arrived. He hadn’t called. Arriving early fit in with his plan to catch her doing whatever it was she did to fill her day. Her activities might give some clue as to her intentions.

The door to the Cessna stood open and the stairs were down as if waiting for visitors on this warm October day. He climbed on board, and the plane rocked slightly under his weight. Lauren abruptly sat upright in one of the plush leather passenger seats and lowered the feet she’d had tucked under her to the floor. She had a laptop computer resting on her thighs. “You’re back.”

“Did I interrupt something?”

“No. I was just…killing time.”

But not in a relaxed way, judging by the tension around her mouth and eyes.

The setting sun streamed through the window behind her, painting coppery streaks in the slightly disheveled dark blond curtain hanging past her shoulders. Her uniform hat rested on a nearby table and her jacket draped a seat back. She hastily closed the open top button of her shirt, covering a V of pale honeyed skin.

“You were supposed to call so I could get the preflight done and get you into the air faster.”

She seemed flustered. Was she hiding something?

“My mind was on work.” Not a lie, just not the entire truth and a necessary omission if he were going to play sleuth. He stowed his briefcase in the compartment she’d shown him earlier.

Her eyes narrowed as if she didn’t believe him, and then she typed a few keys. A few seconds later her eyebrows and the corners of her lips dipped. “Jacqui says hello.”

Alarms sounded in his brain. “You were online with your mother?”

“Yes.” A flicker of irritation crossed her face. “Instant messaging.”

Lauren closed her computer, tucked it into a leather bag by her feet and rose. She twisted her hair up, clipping it into place then she snatched up her hat and set it on her head. “She remembers you from your college visits with Trent.”

Jacqueline would. The Hightower family had often included Gage on vacations—probably because Trent had told them that Gage had nowhere else to go when the dorms shut down for the holidays. He couldn’t exactly join his father because his parent was usually living in a homeless shelter or on the street. Gage had no idea where his mother had gone. The old humiliation still burned his pride.

“I wouldn’t have pegged Jacqueline as the instant messaging type.”

“You’d be wrong. She’s quite techno-savvy.”

That translated into trouble. He could physically keep the women apart, but he couldn’t prevent them from connecting via cyberspace when all of HAMC’s planes had wireless access. That was something neither he nor Trent had anticipated. The situation would require reevaluation and a new strategy.

Lauren stowed her computer case in the compartment behind the pilot’s seat and locked it down. “I refueled after we landed, but I’ll need about thirty minutes to get ready for takeoff.”

“No rush. In fact, why don’t we have dinner first?”

Lauren’s crisp, economical movements stopped abruptly with her uniform jacket half-on. Her eyes turned wary. “Dinner?”

He needed to find out exactly how tight she and her mother had become. “I passed a Brazilian steak place on the way to the airport that looked interesting.”

She licked her lips as if tempted, and his gaze involuntarily followed the sweep of her pink tongue. The muscles in his gut tightened. He dammed the reaction. Lauren might look as fresh-faced as the proverbial girl next door, but the intelligence in her eyes and her quiet confidence as she operated the multimillion dollar aircraft belied her being uncomplicated.

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