The Missing Heir(2)

By: Barbara Dunlop

“You’re his half brother.”

“That’s just an accident of genetics.” There was nothing at all tying Cole to Zachary. Their lives were worlds apart.

“He’s only nine months old.”

Cole kept on walking across the cavernous hangar.

“If the Hendersons are as bad as Lauren said they were...” Luca’s voice trailed off again, leaving the bangs and shouts of the maintenance crew to fill in the silence.

Cole picked up his pace. “Those Hendersons are all dead.”

“Except for you and Zachary.”

“I’m not a Henderson.”

“You looked at your driver’s license lately?”

Cole tugged the heavy hallway door open. “You know what I mean.”

“I know exactly what you mean. The jackals in Atlanta might very well be circling an innocent baby, but you’d rather walk away from all this.”

“I don’t have to walk away from this. I was never involved in it to begin with.”

Cole’s operations manager, Carol Runion          s, poked her head out of her office. “One seventy-two has gone mechanical.”

Cole glanced at his watch. Flight 172, a ninety-passenger commuter jet, was due to take off for Seattle in twenty minutes. “Is maintenance on board?” he asked Carol.

“They’re on their way out there now. You want me to prep Five Bravo Sierra?”

“What’s the problem?” Luca asked her.

“Indicator light for cabin pressure.”

“Probably a faulty switch,” said Cole. “But let’s warm up Five Bravo Sierra.”

“You got it,” said Carol, heading back into her office.

“If we take the Citation, we can be there in four hours,” said Luca.

Cole stared at his partner in confusion. “There are ninety passengers on 172.” The Citation seated nine.

“I meant you and me.”

“Why would we go to Seattle?” And why did Luca think it would take them four hours to get there?

“Atlanta,” said Luca.

Cole’s jaw went lax.

“You gotta do it,” said Luca.

No, he didn’t. And Cole was done with talking about the Henderson family. Without answering, he turned to walk away, shaking his head as he went.

“You gotta do it,” Luca called after him. “You know as well as I do, the jackals are already circling.”

“Not my problem,” Cole called back.

The Atlanta Hendersons had gotten along perfectly well without him up to now. He had no doubt their i’s were dotted and t’s crossed for every possible life or death contingency. They didn’t need him, and he didn’t want them.

* * *

Amber Welsley folded her hands on the top of the massive inlaid-maple table in the formal dining room of the Henderson family mansion. She was one of a dozen people riveted on Max Cutter at the table’s head. Max’s suit was well cut, his gray hair neatly trimmed and his weathered expression was completely inscrutable as he drew a stack of papers from his leather briefcase.

From the finely upholstered chair next to hers, Amber’s friend Destiny Frost leaned in close. “Six lawyers in the same room. This is not going to end well.”

“Seven lawyers,” Amber whispered back.

Destiny’s glance darted around. “Who’d I miss?”

“You. You’re a lawyer.”

“Yeah, but I’m the good guy.”

Amber couldn’t help flexing a tiny smile. She appreciated the small break in the tension.

Max was about to read Samuel Henderson’s last will and testament. The others gathered in the room had an enormous amount at stake—about a billion dollars and control of Coast Eagle Airlines. But the only thing that mattered to Amber was Zachary. She hoped whatever arrangements Samuel and her stepsister, Coco, had made for the baby’s guardianship would allow Amber to stay a part of his life.

Amber was ten years older than Coco, and the two had never been close. But Amber had been instrumental in her stepsister meeting Samuel at a Coast Eagle corporate function two years ago, and Coco’s pregnancy had brought them closer together for a short time. Since then, Amber had felt a special kinship with Zachary.

Across the wide table from her, vice president of operations Roth Calvin shifted in his seat. Since the day the company’s president, Dryden Dunsmore, had been killed in the plane crash, the three vice presidents had been running the show. Now Samuel’s will would reveal who would get control of Coast Eagle.

Whoever it was would control Roth Calvin’s future. Much further down the corporate ladder, as assistant director of finance, Amber didn’t much care who took over the helm of the company. Her day-to-day job as an accountant wasn’t about to change.

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