Tempt Me If You Can (Sinclair 2)

By: Janet Chapman

Benjamin Sinclair seemed completely floored by the gesture, and took an unsteady step back, looking as if he were facing a ghost.

What? The man who could tear her family to shreds was suddenly scared?

Mikey was still holding his hand out, and what Emma saw when she looked at his face would forever stay etched in her memory. Mikey wasn’t hurt, or angry, or even surprised. He simply stepped forward, picked up Ben’s hand, and moved it over his shoulder as he reached around his father’s waist to give him support.

“You’re a bit of a mess, Mr. Jenkins. And my aunt is right about your needing to see a doctor. Come on. I’ll help you into the plane. Go get his stuff from the truck, Nem. I’ve got him now.”

Emma realized she had also taken a step back, her mind numb and her heart breaking at the sight of the only person in the world she loved gently coming to the aid of the one person who could destroy her.

They were finally back at Medicine Creek Camps, with their guest tucked into one of the downstairs bedrooms of her home, drugged to his eyeballs with painkillers. Michael was in the Cessna cleaning up after their bloody passenger, and Emma was stretched out in her recliner with a frosted bottle of beer in her hand and a hot washcloth draped over her eyes.

For a man of few words, her battered guest sure could find choice ones when he wanted—which they had learned when Michael had removed Alice from the plane. Benjamin had cursed their ears red upon discovering that Mikey’s copilot was an old store mannequin with a hat and wig and aviator glasses. He’d then demanded to know what kind of person put a kid in the unthinkable position of landing on a spit of water so small it made aircraft carrier decks huge by comparison.

Michael, bless the boy’s heart, had calmly told Ben that Crazy Larry kept trying to report him to the FAA before he could turn sixteen and get his license. To that Ben had said—quite colorfully—they should both be turned in to Child Welfare. Emma had finally ended his little snit by poking the angry man in the back with her shotgun. He had gotten into the passenger seat, silent but fiercely glaring.

Alice was now floating facedown in Smokey Bog, where Ben had thrown her.

So much for her reputation. Not that the sporting camps couldn’t weather a few critics, but Emma took pride in their business, which she and Mikey had pulled out of drowning red ink. Though still very young herself, Emma had talked her sister into buying Medicine Creek Lodge with the insurance money from their father’s death. She and Kelly had run the lodge and camps together until Kelly had suddenly left Emma with the sizable mortgage and a five-year-old boy to raise.

Michael had been born an ancient in a baby’s body, looking wiser than God. Thankfully he had been a good baby—sleeping when he should, walking when he should, and talking their ears off with precocious babble. By the time Mikey was five, Emma had wondered if he would be going to school or teaching it.

There wasn’t anything the boy couldn’t do. Emma figured he’d be ruling the world by the time he was thirty. There was such a calmness about Michael, a gift of understanding and insight so deep, she was in awe—when she wasn’t intimidated.

She had finally stopped being amazed by the time Michael turned ten, and had learned to accept the fact that she was living with an old man. If she had somehow become the head of the family, Michael had become the godfather.

Now fifteen, Mikey was only allowing her to hold on to the fantasy that she was in charge. He had picked up the habit of giving her orders every now and then—usually when she was tired or frustrated or at loose ends. And like a good aunt, she always listened to him, allowing herself to be bullied or taken care of, whichever she needed at the time.

Emma pulled the washcloth off her eyes and took another sip of her beer when she heard the back door slam shut.

“He finally sleeping?” Mikey asked as he walked into the living room.

Emma carefully folded the washcloth as she watched him silently pad across the room to loom over her, his six-foot frame lanky yet graceful. “Our patient’s sleeping like a lamb.”

Michael snorted. “A lamb with fangs. I thought you were going to wash his mouth out back on Smokey Bog.”

“Get his claw marks out of the dashboard?”

“Jeez, Nem. You’d think a grown man could handle a little excitement without sweating bullets. It was close, but you got us airborne in one piece.”

“He had just survived a savage beating, and didn’t want to find himself decorating a pine tree forty feet up.”

Michael grinned. “You only clipped a small branch.” He suddenly frowned at her washcloth. “Another headache?”

“No. Just relaxing. Is everyone settled in their cabins for the night?”

He nodded. “Cabin three wants to head out again at first light. Apparently their little swim today didn’t discourage them.” He gave her a deceptively innocent, expectant look. “I could take the day off from school to guide our bird hunters in cabin five. Someone should stay around and keep an eye on Mr. Jenkins, and since I might be corrupted by his vocabulary, you should probably play nursemaid.”