The Missing Heir(5)

By: Barbara Dunlop



Her eyes were deep blue, fringed with dark lashes. Her full lips were dark red, her cheeks enticingly flushed. He had a sudden vision of her clambering naked into his bed.

She turned as he approached, caught his stare and gave him an obviously practiced smile. He realized hundreds if not thousands of people must have introduced themselves and offered their condolences in the past weeks.

“Amber Welsley?” he asked her, offering his hand.

“I am.”

“I’m Cole Parker from Aviation 58. My condolences on your loss.”

“Thank you, Mr. Parker.” She shook his hand.

The soft warmth of her palm seemed to whisper through his skin. He felt a ripple of awareness move up his arm and along the length of his body. Her expression flinched, and for a second he thought she’d felt it, too. But then her formal smile was back in place, and she was moving on.

Cole quickly spoke again to keep her attention. “This is my business partner, Luca Dodd.”

“Please call me Luca.”

“And I’m Cole,” Cole put in, feeling like an idiot for not having said it right away.

“Aviation 58 was looking to contribute to the Samuel Henderson fund,” said Luca.

Cole’s stomach twisted, and he shot Luca a glare of annoyance.

Where had that come from? There was no way on earth Cole was contributing to something with Samuel’s name on it.

“It’s a very worthy cause,” said Amber. But then she caught Cole’s expression. “Is something wrong?”

“No,” he quickly answered.

“You look upset.”

“I’m fine.”

She canted her head to one side, considering him. “You don’t agree that the pilot scholarship is a worthy cause?”

“I believe what Luca meant is that we’re thinking of setting something up in parallel. With Georgia Pilots, but not necessarily...” How exactly was he going to phrase this?

“Not necessarily in honor of Samuel Henderson?” Amber finished for him.

Cole didn’t know how to respond to the direct challenge. He didn’t want to lie, but he didn’t want to insult her, either.

“You have a spare ten million hanging around to match Coast Eagle?” she asked.

“Ten million is a little out of our league,” Cole admitted.

Her blue eyes narrowed ever so slightly. “Did you know Samuel?”

“I never met him.”

The suspicious expression didn’t detract at all from her beauty, and Cole experienced an urge to sweep back her hair and kiss the delicate curve of her neck.

“So you disliked him from afar?” she asked.

“I didn’t...” This was getting worse by the second. Cole gave himself a mental shake. “I knew people who knew him.”

“Amber?” prompted a man at her elbow.

Cole clenched his jaw at the interruption.

“Five minutes to introductions,” said the man.

“Thanks, Julius.” She glanced at Luca for a moment before settling her attention back on Cole. “It looks like I need to take my seat. It was a pleasure to meet you, Cole Parker.”

“Are you always this polite?”

“Do you want me to be rude?”

Cole was the one who’d been rude. “This conversation didn’t go the way I expected.”

“Maybe you could try again some other time.”

“What are you doing later?” He hadn’t intended the question to sound intimate, but it did.

She didn’t miss a beat. “I believe I’m eating crab cocktail and chicken Kiev, giving a short, heartfelt speech on behalf of the Henderson family, then relieving the nanny and going to sleep.”

“Zachary?” Cole took advantage of the opening.

“He’ll be having his bath about now. He likes splashing with the blue duck and chewing on the washcloth.”

“Are you staying for the dance?”

“I doubt it.”

“Will you stay for the dance?”

She hesitated. “You think you’ll do better if we’re dancing?”

“I’ll try not to insult the evening’s deceased honoree.”

“You set a high bar.”

“Underpromise and overdeliver.”

The man named Julius returned, touching Amber’s arm. “Amber?”

“Goodbye for now,” she told Cole with a smile.

Though her expression was more polite than warm, he decided to take the words as encouraging.

“What the hell was that?” Luca muttered as she walked away.

“Contributing to his scholarship?” asked Cole. “Where did you expect me to go from there?”

“You choked.”

“We are not contributing to his scholarship.”

“You made that much clear.”

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