Tempt Me If You Can (Sinclair 2)

By: Janet Chapman
Prologue





Benjamin Sinclair stared up at his two brothers standing across the desk from him, presenting an imposing, united front. They hadn’t uttered a word since walking in, and they didn’t have to. Sinclair men never bluffed, and once committed, they never backed down.

Knowing he wasn’t leaving the office until he explained his ongoing black mood, Ben silently pulled a card from an envelope on the desk, slid it toward them, then fixed his gaze on the opposite wall as they read the short, succinct note written on a plain white card.

Sam Sinclair picked up the envelope, read the postmark, then looked at Ben. “You got this over three weeks ago.”

“It’s taken me that long to find out if it’s true.”

“And is it?” Jesse asked.

Ben dropped his gaze to the unsigned note that had sent him into a tailspin.

You have a son, Mr. Sinclair. He’s fifteen years old, and his name is Michael. It’s time you came and met him.

The envelope was postmarked Medicine Gore, Maine.

“The investigators I hired believe that it’s true,” Ben returned softly, his gunmetal gaze once again fixed on his brothers. “His name is Michael Sands, he lives with his aunt in Medicine Gore, and the timing is right.” He slid a thick folder toward them. “The investigators included a photo. You tell me if you think it’s true.”

Sam opened the folder and he and Jesse stared down at the eight-by-ten photograph.

“My God,” Jesse said hoarsely, looking at Ben. “This could be a picture of you nineteen years ago.” He looked back at Ben. “He has your eyes.”

Sam, the oldest of the three Sinclair men, collapsed with a sigh into a chair facing the desk. Jesse, the youngest, picked up the photo before sitting in the other chair.

“All these years of enduring Bram’s petitions for us to get married and have children.” Sam shook his head. “And he had a great-grandson living in Maine all this time.”

“How the hell could you not know you’d fathered a child?” Jesse asked. “It had to have happened that summer you spent protesting some logging practice in the Maine mountains. We suspected you fell in love with a girl up there, but you were in such a foul mood when you came back, you refused to tell us what in hell was wrong.”

“I was protesting the building of a hydroelectric dam,” Ben clarified. “And the girl was Kelly Sands. I asked her to come back to New York with me, but she just laughed and told me to get lost. There wasn’t even a hint that she might be pregnant.”

“Did she know who you were?” Sam asked. “Who your grandfather was?”

“I didn’t hide the fact that I came from money, but I didn’t exactly flaunt it, either.” He shrugged. “I don’t think she ever equated me with wealth.”

Jesse snorted. “If she had, you can be damn sure she’d have come knocking on your door once she discovered she was pregnant.”

“The question is, why is she suddenly knocking now?” Sam asked. “Fifteen years is a long time to wait to tell a man he has a son.”

“The note isn’t from her,” Ben said. “According to the investigators, Kelly Sands vanished ten years ago. Emma, her younger sister, has been raising Michael all by herself.”

Silence settled between the brothers. Ben curled his hands into fists as his vision turned inward, narrowing on that long-ago summer when youthful idealism had pulled him north … into the arms of a beautiful and ultimately cruel young woman. Long-buried pain rose to the surface; remorse, grief, and anger warred inside Ben as he once again tried to wrap his mind around the fact that he had a fifteen-year-old son.

“So what do you plan to do about this?” Sam asked.

Dragged back to the present, Ben gave his brothers a tight smile. “I’m planning to go meet my son, just as the note suggests.”

“And?” Jesse asked.

“And, while my investigators find out where Kelly Sands has run off to, I plan to make Emma Sands very sorry for not contacting me the moment her sister left Michael in her care. Once they find Kelly, I intend to make her even sorrier—not only for not telling me I had a son, but for abandoning him to a nineteen-year-old girl.”

Sam was shaking his head before Ben even finished. “You can’t,” he said, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees. “I’m sure the boy loves his mother and aunt. You go after them for revenge, and you’ll destroy any chance of having a relationship with Michael.”

“He’s right, Ben.” Jesse stood up and tossed the photo on the desk. “For all you know, they told Michael his father is dead. Instead of letting anger cloud your judgment, you need to decide how you’re going to approach the boy.”

Ben also stood. “I’ve already got that part figured out. I leave tomorrow for a two-week bird hunt at Emma Sands’s sporting camps. I’m booked at Medicine Creek Camps as Tom Jenkins.”

Sam also stood, clearly alarmed. “You can’t just show up there using an alias. The aunt will know who you are the moment she sees you.”

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