Home > Up Close and Dangerous(4)

Up Close and Dangerous(4)
Author: Linda Howard

Whoever got into the office first was the one who had to start on the paperwork, which was one reason why Bret was seldom there so early. He was matching the range of the planes to the length of the flights, which was only common sense because it saved time if they didn’t have to stop for refueling. Normally Cam would have preferred the L.A. run, but he’d already flown a couple of long trips this week and he needed a little break. He also needed a few hours in one of the Cessnas; he flew so much in the Lear and the Piper Mirage that he had to make an effort to get his hours in on the smaller planes. “No, it’s fine the way it is. I need the hours. What’s on for tomorrow?”

“Just two. Tomorrow’s an early day for me, too; I’m taking Mrs. Wingate to Denver for a vacation, so I’ll be deadheading back unless I can pick up something. The other one is…” He paused, looking through the papers on his desk for the contract sheet Karen had written up.

“A cargo run to Sacramento,” Karen said from the outer office, not bothering to pretend she wasn’t eavesdropping.

“A cargo run to Sacramento,” Bret echoed, grinning, as if Cam hadn’t heard her perfectly well. The growling sound came again. Bret scribbled a note and pushed it across his desk; Cam ambled forward to put one finger on the piece of paper and twirl it around.

Ask her if she’s had her rabies shot, the note read.

“Sure,” he said, and raised his voice. “Karen, Bret wants me to ask you—”

“Shut up, you asshole!” Bret lunged to his feet and punched Cam on the shoulder to stop him from completing the sentence. Laughing, Cam left the room to go to his own office.

Karen gave him the squinty-eyed look again. “Bret wants you to ask me what?” she demanded.

“Never mind. It wasn’t anything important,” Cam said innocently.

“Yeah, I’ll bet,” she muttered.

The phone rang as he sat down, and though technically it was Karen’s job to answer calls, she was busy and he wasn’t, so he punched on line one and answered.

“Executive Air Limo.”

“This is Seth Wingate. Does my stepmother have a flight booked for tomorrow?”

The man’s voice was abrupt, raising Cam’s hackles, but he kept his own tone neutral. “Yes, she does.”

“Where to?”

Cam wished he could tell the jerk that Mrs. Wingate’s destination wasn’t any of his business, but when it came down to it, jerk or not, he was a Wingate and would have a lot to say about whether or not J&L kept the Wingate Group’s business. “Denver.”

“When is she coming back?”

“I don’t have the exact date in front of me, but I believe it’s around two weeks.”

The only reply was the line being disconnected, without a “thank you,” “kiss my ass,” or anything else.

“Bastard,” he muttered as he clicked the receiver down.


Karen’s voice floated through the open door. Was there anything she didn’t hear? The hell of it was, the tap-tap of computer keys never stopped, never hesitated. The woman was downright scary.

“Seth Wingate,” he replied.

“I’m with you on that, boss. He’s keeping tabs on Mrs. Wingate, huh? I wonder why. There’s no love lost between those two.”

No surprise there; the first Mrs. Wingate, whom he’d known briefly but really liked, had died barely a year before Mr. Wingate married his personal assistant, who was younger than both his children. “Maybe he’s going to throw a party in the house while she’s gone.”

“That’s juvenile.”

“So is he.”

“That’s probably why Mr. Wingate, the old one, left her in charge of the money.”

Surprised, Cam got up and went to his office door. “You’re kidding,” he said to her back.

She glanced over her shoulder at him, her fingers still flying over the computer keys. “You didn’t know?”

“How would I know?” Neither any of the family members nor the executives in the Group talked personal finances with him, and he didn’t believe they confided in Karen either.

“I know,” she pointed out.

Yeah, but you’re scary. He bit back the words before his mouth got his ass in big-time trouble. Karen had her ways of finding out stuff. “How do you know?”

“I hear things.”

“If it’s true, no wonder there’s no love lost between them.” Hell, if he was in Seth Wingate’s shoes, he’d probably be acting like a bastard toward his stepmother, too.

“It’s true, all right. Old Mr. Wingate was a smart guy. Think about it. Would you have left either Seth or Tamzin in charge of millions and millions of dollars?”

Cam had to think about it for maybe one thousandth of a second. “No way in hell.”

“Well, neither would he. And I like her. She’s smart.”

“I hope she’s smart enough to have changed the locks on the doors when Mr. Wingate died,” Cam said. And to watch her back, because he wouldn’t trust Seth Wingate not to put a knife in it, if he had the chance.


THE PHONE JARRED CAM AWAKE THE NEXT MORNING AND he fumbled for it without opening his eyes. Maybe it was a wrong number; if he didn’t open his eyes, he’d be able to go back to sleep until the alarm on his wristwatch went off. He knew from experience that once he opened his eyes he might as well get up because sleep wasn’t gonna happen. “Yeah.”

“Boss, get your pants on and get down here.”

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