Tempt Me If You Can (Sinclair 2)

By: Janet Chapman


Ben snapped his gaze up at the amusement in her voice, but he only had time to open his mouth before she held the bottle to his lips. The potent whiskey burned his bleeding mouth, and ran all the way down his throat to pool like liquid heat in his stomach. Damn, it felt good. And she was a generous savior, despite her crude care. She patiently let him have his fill, until he leaned his head against the headrest and closed his eyes. Lord, he could feel the whiskey already spreading to every aching muscle in his body. He’d been so sore and numb he hadn’t realized how cold he was.

Ben cracked his eyes enough to see the sun was setting behind the nearest mountain, casting long shadows over the forest, making the bog an unreadable tangle of still water, stumps, and ripples.

His son was going to land here? In a floatplane?

Ben stiffened at the sudden roar of a plane buzzing overhead. Dammit. He’d crawl to the hospital before he’d put Michael in danger. He was just about to tell Emma that when he heard the radio crackle again.

“Help me, Nem.”

“Figure it out yourself, Mikey.”

Ben made a grab for the mike to tell the boy to abort the landing and go home, but Emma pulled it out of his reach and glared at him. “He can do this,” she snapped. “Michael’s a better bush pilot than anyone around here. The bog’s big enough and he’s talented enough to land here in his sleep.”

“If he gets hurt, Miss Sands, I’m going to use that radio cord to strangle you.”

She stared at him for a good long minute, and then she suddenly gave him a strange smile. “You have my permission to try.”

“Guide him in.”

“No.”

“Guide me in, Nem,” Michael echoed over the radio.

“If you want to solo on your sixteenth birthday, you better know how, Mikey. I won’t be on the radio then.”

Ben heard an exasperated sigh come over the speaker. “I’ve been flying solo for two years.”

“And I’ve only had to replace the pontoons once,” she shot back. “Don’t make it twice. Watch the rocks.”

She tossed the mike on the dash and got out, and Ben realized that every muscle in her body was primed for action. Her shoulders were squared and her eyes were trained like lasers on the fast-descending plane, which appeared to be brushing the treetops. Her hands were balled into fists and her feet were planted, and she looked like she intended to guide her nephew down by force of will alone.

So the tough-talking lady was worried, was she?

Ben was going to kill her before this was over.

He could see two heads through the windshield of the plane, but Alice was either a very brave or a very dumb passenger. Michael was doing the flying, and he seemed to be doing it very well. He had throttled back but he was still coming in fast, looking like a hawk diving for prey. He wasn’t hesitating or asking for help now, by God. And his water rudders were up.

Michael Sands set the Stationair down on Smokey Bog softly enough to make an eagle weep. Ben brushed the blood trailing down his cheek, only to find his shaking hand came away more wet than red.

Damn, he was proud of the boy. Michael was doing a job most men couldn’t, and he was doing it magnificently. Emma might be justified in her boast, if this was an example of the boy’s maturity and self-confidence.

Ignoring his protesting body, Ben climbed out of the truck and shuffled toward the bog, determined to be standing eye level and proud when he finally met his son for the first time.





Chapter Two





Emma watched with pride as her nephew carefully nudged the Cessna up against the muddy bank of Smokey Bog. She hadn’t doubted for a minute he could land here; Mikey was the most capable young man she’d ever known.

He killed the engine and gave her a cocky smile through the windshield, then reached over, adjusted Alice’s cap, and pushed her dark glasses up her nose. He was clearly proud of himself. He climbed out of the plane and walked forward on the pontoon, jumping onto the shore with the litheness of a cat. Not even sixteen yet, Mikey was already pushing six feet.

Suddenly he stopped and stared at the bloody man limping toward them.

This was not good. Michael Sands was far too intelligent not to recognize the father he’d never met but probably knew everything about. The boy did own a computer; what were the chances his curiosity hadn’t led him through the internet to Benjamin Sinclair?

Her sister had never talked about Michael’s father to him, but that hadn’t stopped the boy from asking questions. And after Kelly had left, when Michael was five, Emma had answered every one of those questions with all the care and courage she could. She hadn’t made Benjamin Sinclair out to be an ogre; she’d simply told Michael that his father had been young and confused. And yes, he was handsome; yes, he was tall; and yes, he was just as intelligent as Mikey was.

This should prove interesting, Emma decided as she watched them stare at each other. Knowing Mikey, he wouldn’t reveal that he knew who Tom Jenkins really was. And their guest seemed just as determined to keep up the charade.

His eyes intent, Mikey reached out a hand. “Welcome to Maine, Mr. Jenkins.”

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