The Missing Heir(9)

By: Barbara Dunlop



“I’ll have it brought around,” the doorman answered.

“I can’t take your car,” said Amber. How had this gotten so complicated?

“Where are you going?” asked Cole.

“Fifth Avenue and Eighty-Ninth.”

“It’ll only take ten minutes to get you there.”

A black car pulled up in front of them and Cole opened the door.

Amber decided to go with the flow. The sooner she got going, the sooner she’d be home with Zachary. She climbed in, and Cole shut the door behind her.

But before they pulled away, he surprised her by hopping in the other side.

“I thought you were going back for my shoes.”

“I’ll do that after we get you home. Fifth Avenue and Eighty-Ninth,” he said to the driver.

“That’s ridiculous.”

She couldn’t understand why he’d make the round trip for nothing. Unless he was worried she’d commandeer his car for a joyride. Though she doubted the driver would let her do that.

As they pulled out of the turnaround and onto the street, she clicked through other possibilities. He’d been intensely persistent, awfully complimentary and easy to get along with, and he’d stuck to her like glue. What could he be after?

And then it came to her. The man owned an airline, a small regional West Coast airline that was likely looking to expand. She instantly realized the vacation story was a cover. Cole was here to do business.

She angled herself in the seat, facing him. “You’re after our Pacific routes.”

“Excuse me?”

“I figured it out. You’re thinking Samuel’s death makes Coast Eagle vulnerable. You’re hoping we’ll be looking to downsize, and you think you can get your hands on the Pacific routes to expand Aviation 58.”

He stared at her for a long moment.

“You’ve been way too friendly,” she elaborated. “You overplayed your hand.”

“Maybe I’m simply attracted to you.”

She gazed down at the fancy dress. She did look better than usual, but Cole was still out of her league. “There were far more beautiful women at the event tonight.”

“I didn’t see them.” The sincerity in his expression was quite impressive.

“Nice try. It’s the routes.”

“You see that as the only possible explanation?”

“I do.”

“Then, I admit it. It’s the routes. Will you sell them to me?”

She leaned back in the seat. “I don’t know why everybody thinks I have so much power. I’m the assistant director of finance. There’s still a board of directors in place, and the vice presidents are in charge of operations until they name a new president.”

“But as Zachary’s guardian, you control board appointments.”

“Theoretically.”

If she kept custody of Zachary, that would be true. But before that could ever happen, she had a big fight with Roth on her hands.

“There’s nothing theoretical about it,” said Cole. “The board answers to the shareholders, and the president answers to the board, and everyone else answers to the president. You can do anything you want.”

“But I won’t. I have my own job at Coast Eagle, and I’m not about to muscle in on anyone else’s.”

“It’s your responsibility.” There was an unexpected hardness to Cole’s tone. “It’s your responsibility to Zachary to take control of the company.”

She turned to look at him again. “It’s my responsibility to Zachary to ensure the company is well run. That doesn’t mean I make any particular decision.”

His dark eyes were implacable. “Yes, it does.”

“Well, Mr. Cole Parker, owner of Aviation 58 in Alaska, you are certainly entitled to your opinion. And I’m more than entitled to ignore it.”

He opened his mouth but then obviously thought better of speaking.

The car came to a halt at the curb.

“The Newmont Building?” the driver asked. “Or are you in Sutten’s Edge?”

“This is it,” said Amber, feeling anxious to get away. “Joyce Roland is the director of planning,” she said to Cole. “You can ask her about the Pacific routes, but she may not take your call.”

The driver had come around and now swung open her door.

“Thank you for the ride. Good night, Cole.”

A small smile played on his lips. “You’re very polite.”

“So I’ve been told.”

“Good night, Amber. Thank you for the dance.”

A sudden rush of warmth enveloped her, and she found her gaze dropping from his eyes to his lips. For a fleeting second, she imagined him kissing her good-night.

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