Daddy to the Rescue DADDY TO THE RESCUE
"Heroes Inc., Book 1"
Harlequin Intrigue® #705
Mass Market Paperback
ISBN: 0373227051
Publisher: Harlequin Books
Pub. Date: April 2003

Trying 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 the window at the crisp blue sky and admire the wisps of clouds as fine as Abby's silky blonde hair.

Awake in the seat beside her, at eight months, Abby was a great traveler. Although she didn't like her confinement in her carseat, the monotonous thrum of the private jet's engines would soon soothe the baby to sleep. She'd already breast fed, swallowing as they gained altitude so her ears had popped repeatedly. And since they were the only passengers, they'd had plenty of privacy.

Sara hadn't seen the pilot since she'd strapped into her seat. The small plane had no co-pilot and no flight attendants. But Sara counted herself lucky that the government considered her work important enough to 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.

Practiced in gaining her mother's attention, Abby tossed a toy at Sara. The plastic ball landed in her lap. Sara grinned and handed Abby back the ball, 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.

However, 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 and already her eyes had 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 the distraction of climbing out of her seat where she could crawl and explore. At the best of times, Abby was a handful, but Sara considered the baby a blessing that kept her anchored firmly in the real world.

Otherwise, Sara tended to forget time passing 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 be on this airplane. When the sitter had come down with the flu, Sara had no choice but to bring her along.

Abby seemed to know she wasn't supposed to be here, but, finally, after a hours of fighting to stay awake, the baby fell into a deep sleep. But even as she dreamed, she kicked her tiny feet and held onto her ball. Sara automatically smoothed back Abby's hair and prayed her daughter 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—"


The man held her computer briefcase full of books in one hand and opened the door with the other. Wind roared into the plane like a tornado. 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, Acceleration crushed her 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 because 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 carseat. They hadn't succeeded in stealing her program or the specialized harddrive that ran her work, but she got no satisfaction from the thought.

The plane plunged toward the snow-covered mountains, tumbling, spinning, diving with sickening speed. Within seconds, the plane would strike the forbidding mountains of trees, ice and rock.

In the bucking, diving plane, somehow, Sara reached for and found Abby's tiny hand.