The Missing Heir(4)

By: Barbara Dunlop

“But—” Roth began.

Max held up a hand to forestall him. “For any changes to that, you’ll need a decision from a judge.”

“You can bet we’re going to a judge,” spat Roth.

Amber whispered to Destiny, “What does this all mean?”

“It means we’re going to court to duke it out with Roth. And it means he just became your mortal enemy. But right now, it also means you get Zachary.”

Amber’s chest swelled tight. Zachary would stay with her. For now, nothing else mattered.

* * *

Walking through the entrance of the Atlanta hotel ballroom, Cole gazed at the crowds of people attending the Georgia Pilots Association annual fund-raiser. Tonight was the formal recognition of the new Samuel Henderson Memorial Scholarship, so he knew the who’s who of Coast Eagle Airlines would be in the room.

Luca was beside him, dressed in a formal suit. “You’ll be glad you came.”

“I’ll mostly be glad if it shuts you up.”

Cole had told himself a thousand times that the Hendersons of Atlanta were none of his business, and he still believed it. But Luca had kept after him for three long weeks. Finally, Cole had given in and checked out a picture of Zachary on a news site.

The baby was cuter than he’d expected, and his face had seemed strangely familiar. But Cole chalked it up to the power of suggestion. When you started looking for a family resemblance, everything took on new meaning. Sometimes gray eyes were simply gray eyes.

But once he’d scratched the surface, he’d ended up reading the rest of the article, learning there was a court challenge for guardianship. He didn’t necessarily agree with Luca that everyone involved was a jackal out to get the kid’s money. But he did find himself analyzing the players.

In the end, his curiosity won out, and he agreed to make the trip to Atlanta. He had no intention of marching up to the front door and introducing himself as a long-lost relative. He was staying under the radar, checking things out and returning to Alaska just as soon as he confirmed Zachary was safe.

“Right there,” said Luca. “In the black dress, lace sleeves, brown hair, kind of swooped up. She’s at the table below the podium. She’s moving right now.”

As Cole zeroed in on Amber Welsley, she turned, presenting him with a surprisingly pretty profile.

Her diamond jewelry flashed beneath the bright lights, accenting her feminine face. Her dress was classic, a scooped neckline, three-quarter-length lace sleeves that blended to a form-fitting bodice and a narrow skirt that emphasized her trim figure.

From this distance, she surprised him. She wasn’t at all what he’d expected. She was younger, softer, insidiously captivating. While he stared at her, the wholly inappropriate thought that she was kissable welled up in his mind.

“You want to go over and say hi?” asked Luca.

The true answer was no. Cole wanted to get on an airplane and fly back to Alaska.

He might as well get this over with. Checking out Amber and all the other characters in this family drama was his purpose in being here. There wasn’t any point waiting.

“Let’s do it,” he said.

“Roth Calvin’s at the next table,” said Luca as they walked. “He’s facing us, talking to the guy with red hair, in the steel-gray jacket.”

“I think you missed your calling as a spy.”

Luca grinned. “I’m calling dibs on the one named Destiny.”

“Who’s Destiny?”

“She was in a couple of the photos with Amber Welsley. She’s hot. And with a name like that, I’m definitely giving her a shot.”

Cole shook his head. “She’s all yours, buddy. I just want to make sure the kid’s okay.” Then any duty he might have as a blood relative would be done.

“By kid, you mean your baby brother?”

“Yeah, that’s not a phrase we’ll be using.”

“Boggles the mind, doesn’t it?”

“You’re going to have to be boggled all by yourself. I won’t be here long enough.”

“You want a wingman for the intro?”

“Sure. But don’t use the name Henderson.”

“Undercover. I like it.”

“I’ll use Cole Parker. My middle name.”

“Right behind you, Cole Parker.”

The closer they drew to the Coast Eagle tables, the more beautiful Amber became. Her hair wasn’t brown, but a rich chestnut with highlights that shimmered under the bright stage lights. It was half up, half down in a tousled bundle with wisps flowing over her temples and down her back. The scalloped neckline of her dress showed off an expanse of creamy skin, while the lace across her shoulders played peekaboo with his imagination.

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