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Daddy To The Rescue
By Susan Kearney
Harlequin Enterprises Ld.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTrying and failing to relax, Sara Hardaker stared out the window of the private jet the government had sent to fly her to her meeting. As the only passenger on the plane besides her daughter, Abby, she had a prime window to look out at the crisp blue sky and admire the wisps of clouds as fine as Abby's silky blond hair.
Awake in the seat beside her, at eight months, Abby was a great traveler. Although she didn't like her confinement in her car seat, the monotonous thrum of the private jet's engines would soon soothe the baby to sleep. She'd already breast-fed, and since they were the only passengers, they'd had plenty of privacy.
Sara hadn't seen the pilot since she'd strapped herself into her seat. The small plane had no copilot and no flight attendants. But Sara counted herself lucky that the government considered her work important enough that it would arrange such luxurious private transportation. She could get used to traveling in plush leather seats with a fully stocked kitchen and bar at her disposal. After she completed the sale of her software to the government, she and Abby would be able to afford to take a nice vacation to someplace warm and sunny.
Months of hard work were about to pay off. Several government agencies were impressed with Sara's face-recognition software, and she thanked her lucky stars that she'd had the courage to leave the corporate world to become an entrepreneur. Her company might be small and consist of only one person, but she'd succeeded in writing the computer code that could identify faces from a digitalized picture, even if a terrorist wore sunglasses and a hat, even in bad light.
"Ball." Practiced in gaining her mother's attention, Abby tossed a plastic ball at Sara. The toy landed in her lap. Sara grinned and handed the ball back to Abby, knowing her daughter would simply repeat the maneuver. Sara didn't mind. Abby was the one person who could draw her from thoughts about work. Her daughter had started to speak at an unusually early age.
Sara was tempted to teach Abby more words but Abby really needed to sleep, not play. Sara stroked her baby's neck in an effort to divert her attention from their game. The trip would go faster if Abby slept. Soon her eyes started to flutter closed.
Abby usually went at full speed until she succumbed to sleep.
But in the airplane Sara couldn't allow her active child to climb out of her seat to crawl and explore. At the best of times, Abby was a handful. Sara considered the baby a blessing, though. Abby kept her anchored firmly in the real world.
Otherwise, Sara tended to lose track of time while she worked in cyberspace. For Abby, she'd given up eighteen-hour days. And for the sake of her daughter's future, she was making this very important trip. But Abby wasn't supposed to have been with her. When the sitter came down with the flu, Sara had had no choice but to bring Abby along.
Sara looked down at her precious daughter, who had fallen into a deep sleep. But even as she dreamed, kicking her tiny feet, the baby held onto her ball. Sara automatically smoothed back Abby's hair and prayed she wouldn't wake until the plane landed in Los Angeles.
Looking down through the clouds, Abby spied the bleak snow-covered peaks and foggy valleys of the Rocky Mountains. Another hour, maybe an hour and a half, until they landed, she estimated.
When the pilot opened the door separating the cabin from the cockpit, Sara realized she must have dozed. Her first glance went to Abby, who was still sleeping soundly.
Sara pulled a loose sock back onto her daughter's foot, then glanced at the pilot. "Who's flying the -"
Oh my God!
The man held her computer briefcase full of books in one hand and opened the door with the other. Wind roared into the plane. She had an image of a backpack - no ... a parachute - on his back. He jumped. With her computer bag.
Leaving them with no pilot. No copilot.
The nose dived, and the plane accelerated. She was crushed into her seat. And all Sara could think about was that Abby wasn't supposed to be here. But she was. They were both going to die. The pilot had obviously wanted her new computer program. Sara glanced at the laptop she'd removed earlier and had slipped into the diaper bag of Abby's car seat. They hadn't succeeded in stealing her program or the specialized hard drive that ran her work, but she got no satisfaction from the thought.
The plane plunged toward the mountains with sickening speed. Within seconds, it would smash into the harsh chaos of trees, ice and rock.
In the bucking, diving plane, Sara reached for and, somehow, found Abby's tiny hand.
Excerpted from Daddy To The Rescue by Susan Kearney Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.