Authors: Sally Clements
I’ll organize it. You go pack.’ His shuttered gaze gave nothing of his inner feelings away. ‘I told you once. I’m not leaving you alone until this is over. There’ll be two of us on that plane in the morning.’
Paul tucked the black T-shirt into black jeans and sat down on the bed to pull on Jake’s hiking boots. The jeans were too long, but apart from that, everything was a good fit. He slipped the spare clothes into Jake’s rucksack, together with a bottle of water, and counted the spare cash Jake always kept at the back of his sock drawer. A couple of hundred, that should keep him going for a while. He slipped the cash into his back pocket, then took the keys to the BMW from their usual hook. He took a final look at the emails open on Jake’s computer, then printed Tempest’s address from the email his secretary had sent confirming their flight reservations. They’d be back tomorrow night, and things would be underway by then.
It was amazing what you could find out if you had access to the internet and a fast connection. Jake had acted just as he’d expected, making sure there was a good strong security presence around his mother, and around himself and the MacKenzie woman, but had left one person completely unprotected, her sister, Skye. He folded the address carefully and slid it into the top of the knapsack, then turned off the lights and walked into the elevator. The sleek black car started first go, and he drove it swiftly out of the building, his face hidden from view behind the blackened windows.
The flight was scheduled too early to get into the hospital and check on Jean Luc before they left. Jake sat down in the kitchen with Céleste as Tempest rang her sister again.
‘I’m sorry, Céleste. I don’t want to go, but I can’t let her go on her own, it’s too dangerous.’
Céleste frowned. ‘But she has spoken to her sister,
? Is that not enough to reassure her?’
‘Apparently not.’ Jake replied.
Céleste bustled around the kitchen and Jake leaned back in the chair, closed his eyes, and tuned out. When Tempest insisted that they leave at first light, a wave of irritation overwhelmed him, and he’d fought to keep his temper in check. It was only the terrified look in her eyes and her unnatural pallor that stopped him refusing straight out. Instead, he’d swallowed his anger and booked the flights.
Once he’d done what she wanted, the frantic air of panic around her dissolved, and she crawled back into bed, lying silently. No such release soothed Jake. Anger still buzzed in his veins. He’d brusquely told her he had to set his alarm clock, and strode out of the room into his own. He didn’t want to fight her, but he didn’t want to sleep with her either. So he climbed into his cold bed without her. Being in his old bedroom didn’t help. Memories bombarded him. Memories of lying here as a child, angry with another impulsive person he’d loved. His dead father.
Dad was reckless; the same sort of reckless as Tempest when she insisted she could travel back to London without an escort. But this was worse, way worse. Tempest was taking him away from Jean Luc. The man who’d always been there for Jake. Who had effortlessly stepped into his father’s shoes. Now Jean Luc needed Jake. And Tempest was in the way. Stopping Jake being there for the old, ill man who needed him. And there was no bloody reason for it.
He ran a hand through his hair and clamped his eyes shut. Last night, he sat with Etienne, gazing across at her in the firelight. On the point of telling his family he’d decided to move back to Europe, and a lot of that was due to Tempest. He even persuaded himself that her insistence on following her instincts, even ignoring logic if necessary, was not a constant part of her.
Now, in the cold, hard light of day, reality bit. Her instinctive nature was hard-wired. There was nothing he could ever do to change it, and he wasn’t sure he could even try to live with it. He glanced over to where she stood gripping the phone, with desperation in her eyes. Compassion welled up for the self-made hell she was living in, but he couldn’t forgive her. Not now.
‘Skye would like to talk to you.’
Jake took the phone without a word, and walked into the privacy of the library.
Skye’s voice was soft, as if she understood the torment that swirled within, clutching at his gut. ‘How’s your grandfather, Jake?’
Somehow talking about Jean Luc was easy. It was talking about Tempest that was impossible.
‘He’s stable. I’ll deliver Tempest home and come back. I want to be with him until he’s out of the hospital.’ He hesitated, but had to ask. ‘Tempest is quite irrational about all this. I can’t get through to her. Has she been like this before?’
‘She follows her instincts. The night before our father died she dreamed of the attack, and she was as bad as this. That’s the only time.’
It made a twisted sort of sense. Tempest was having an extreme reaction. Pushed over the edge with the events of the past week. ‘Does she take any medication? For anxiety?’ His anger dissipated. She was having a breakdown. She didn’t need his anger to deal with as well.
‘No, I’m sure she’ll be better when she gets home and sees for herself that I’m safe. Daniel called the police this morning. Paul’s gone to ground somewhere. Anyway, they continue to be vigilant but aren’t concerned enough to put a police guard on our house. Daniel has contacted a private security firm and two bodyguards will be starting this afternoon.’
Etienne was in the doorway tapping his watch.
‘OK Skye, we’ll see you in three or four hours. We’ll call when we land in Heathrow.’ Jake picked up their bags from the bottom of the stairs, and followed Etienne out into the bright sunlight.
Alison MacKenzie had finally deigned to leave and the house was quiet. Skye drained her coffee as she looked out at the view that her mother had glared at over breakfast every morning of her stay, before making such pronouncements as: ‘Just give me a trowel and I’ll do a bit of weeding,’ or ‘that’s such a beautiful rose, but it really needs deadheading, and the ground around it cleared.’
Skye pulled on her gardening gloves and tightened the belt of tools around her waist, stepping down the steps and tossing her kneeler down before starting to tackle the rose.
‘Happy now, mother?’
She pulled her hand back quickly from a protruding thorn, pulling off her glove to rub the speck of blood on the back of her hand. So absorbed that she missed the soft crunch of gravel as a car pulled up to the front of the house.
Skye jumped. The soft voice was close. Too close. She stood up quickly, holding the secateurs firmly in front of her.
‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.’ The stranger took a tentative step forward and she instinctively stepped back. ‘Jake asked me to call in and check that you’re OK.’
She relaxed slightly, still keeping an eye on the stranger though, there was something altogether too smooth about him. ‘Uh huh?’ She pulled her cell phone from the toolbelt around her waist. ‘I’m just fine.’
She scrolled through the list and chose Tempest’s number, putting the phone to her ear.
‘Excuse me for a moment, will you?’
The man took a couple of steps away, not out of earshot she noticed, as she listened to her sister’s voice mail cut in.
‘Tempest, it’s Skye, I have somebody here that Jake sent over…’
The phone bounced once as it hit the gravel, followed by the secateurs. Paul dragged the inert body to his car, clicking open the boot release before he reached it. He folded her unconscious body into the boot then slammed it shut.
She’d made the mistake of looking down at her hand while she made the phone call and that was all the opportunity he needed to hit her. Paul smiled as he climbed behind the wheel of the powerful car. Many women wouldn’t have taken their eye off him for a moment, but Skye Adams wasn’t one of them. It never occurred to her that a calm, unexcited man would suddenly punch her in the side of her head hard enough to render her unconscious.
Protected and shielded from life’s dark realities.
He grinned as he drove through the gates of the property.
My type of victim
Jake stared out of the window of the plane, this time he’d snagged the window seat as he really needed some legitimate means of ignoring the frazzled woman at his side throughout the flight. He phoned Jean Luc from the airport, while they were waiting for their plane to board. His grandfather was upset, but sympathetic when he learned the circumstances.
‘There’s a family emergency – we have to go back immediately, I’ll phone you when I know more. I’ll be back, Jean Luc, as soon as we’ve sorted this out. Maybe alone.’
Jake slanted a glance Tempest’s direction, but she just stared out of the window, oblivious. Her head was lowered and she was motionless. It was a disturbing development. He’d got used to her being frantic and panicked. Her shoulders were slumped and the light within her was dim, as if extinguished. The link between them felt broken, and he didn’t have the energy to try and re-establish it.
He hated leaving Jean Luc in such a state. They’d checked with Skye and Daniel again and there was still no sign of an emergency. Once again, he tried to talk Tempest out of flying back, after all Skye was fine, and she would soon be protected 24/7 by professional bodyguards. And once again, Tempest was adamant about getting on the plane. He hadn’t lied to Jean Luc, it was an emergency of sorts because Tempest was in the throes of a full-blown delusional episode. The only thing to do was to humour her, and get her back to her familiar environment as soon as possible.
The fasten seat belts announcement. He tightened his belt, and looked over to make sure she was strapped in. The belt was secure, and her eyes were closed. Her hands lay motionless in her lap and her facial muscles were relaxed, although she was even whiter than normal.
Sympathy flooded him. Tempest had told him she’d come alone. Had known that he didn’t want to leave, but he’d insisted she couldn’t fly alone. It wasn’t her fault. The delusion had her firmly in its grip. She believed her sister was in mortal danger, and she was suffering. He looked closer. There were black shadows under her eyes, and he detected a subtle shake in her clasped hands. He put his hand over hers and turned it over, her small white fingers linking his tanned ones. Her eyes remained closed.
‘We’ll be taking off in a couple of minutes.’
Her eyelashes flickered upwards and dull eyes gazed into his. ‘Good.’
Tempest’s eyes closed again, but she gripped his hand tightly, and he took some strength from that. Trauma wreaked havoc on a vulnerable mind, but the damage wouldn’t be permanent if she received professional care. She needed him, and there was no way he was walking out on her now. Her fingers relaxed slightly and he closed his eyes to catch some shuteye. He couldn’t do anything until the plane landed, and he’d need all the rest he could get before the day was done.
The plane landed on time, for once, but it took forever to walk the miles of carpeted corridors that led from the plane to the baggage reclaim, and his anxiety levels were off the chart as he strode after Tempest. Her stress levels had risen since the plane landed and taxied to a halt, and she was desperate to reach her sister. He wished he had some valium, or something to calm her down. He could use something himself. He identified the carousel for their flight and manoeuvred a trolley into position as she moved to a quieter area of the concourse to make a call.
Her bag was one of the first out, and he snagged it quickly, and then flicked his own black bag expertly off the carousel and onto their waiting trolley just as she closed her phone.
‘He’s got her.’ She handed him the phone calmly. ‘She left me a message, listen to it.’
He dialled the call back number then listened to the message that ended mid sentence in a dull thump. In the distance he heard a car door slamming, followed by the sound of an engine gunning, then fading.
‘Come on Jake, we’ve got to get to the police.’
His legs were rooted to the spot as his eyes searched her face.
She was right.
omehow, she knew her sister was in danger before any of them did, and he…
He handed her phone back and ran a hand through his tousled hair, as guilt bit hard.
He’d thought of having her committed.
She touched a hand to his sleeve, making eye contact for the first time in hours. There was understanding in her gaze, and forgiveness.
‘I don’t blame you for not believing me, Jake. You wouldn’t be the first and you sure won’t be the last.’ She crossed her arms in front of her chest, all traces of the frantic panic gone. ‘The main thing is that you came. Even though you couldn’t believe me, you agreed to come with me.’
She glanced away, searching for the exit. ‘We need to get out of here and find the police.’
Smith met them at the arrivals gate, his expression sombre. ‘Mr. Adams told us your flight details. He’s at home. There’s a development.’
Tempest’s voice was clear and steady. ‘I know.’ ‘I just turned my phone on. Skye left me a message, and you can hear him take her.’
She dialled the message service, and handed Smith the phone. Smith’s faced paled as he listened. ‘Has he made contact?’
Tempest’s long red hair bounced as she shook her head. ‘Nothing yet.’
Smith walked to a waiting police car and stowed their bags in the back.
‘We’ve set up a command centre at the house. We’ll do the phone analysis there.’
Tempest dragged in a deep breath at the flotilla of cars littering the sweep. It was as if the entire police force had taken up residence, but too late to save Skye from kidnap. Tiredness infused every pore, and her legs felt like lead. But she had to be strong. For Skye.
Jake took her hand and squeezed it. She climbed out of the car, and walked inside.
Daniel was pacing in the living room like a man possessed. Tempest flew straight into his arms, hugging him.
‘I shouldn’t have left the house.’ His eyes squeezed shut in anguish. ‘I went down to the village to get the papers.’ He pulled out of her arms to pace again. ‘When I got back she was gone, I knew he’d taken her, her phone and clippers were lying on the ground.’