Authors: Sally Clements
She forced compliance into her tone. ‘Where are you dragging me?’
His shoulders relaxed and he stopped glaring at her like an enemy.
‘To the helipad.’ He unclenched his other hand, showing her a long flat key. ‘Did I mention I can fly a helicopter?’
A wide grin transformed his face.
They were going to get out of here
. Relief flooded through her as she placed her hand in his and ran as fast as she could towards the helicopter which would take them away from this hellish place.
Charts lay scattered across the seat in the helicopter. Tempest collected them up and handed them to Jake. She fastened herself in, and slipped on the headphones as the rotor started up.
Jake glanced at the charts. ‘You were right, we’re just off Kent.’
He folded the charts, then checked the fuel gauge. ‘I’ll fly us to Biggin Hill and drop you off.’ He pulled hard on the stick, his bicep flexing. The building grew smaller as they ascended into the air, its menace shrinking in proportion to its size as they got further away from it. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll keep you informed. You should stay out of sight for a couple of days though, just to be on the safe side.’
God, he was incredible. In all senses of the word. In the close confines of the cabin, awareness of his body next to hers sent tingles up and down Tempest’s arms. She glanced over. Even with his clothes dirty and his face bruised by the men’s attack, he was totally gorgeous. Her mouth went dry. But he was trying to end her part in this. To move on without her. She crossed her hands over her chest. There was no way he could handle everything on his own. Jake needed her help, and he was damn well going to get it.
‘I’m not going anywhere. You need my help. We’ll discuss it when you land, although I might suggest somewhere other than a private airfield.’ She reached for the map and poured over it for a few minutes before triumphantly pointing out a suitable landing area to the right of the small airfield he was heading for. ‘That’s where I live with my sister and her husband. There’s a field next to the house that you can land in.’
She pushed a handful of wavy curls away from her face and wrinkled her nose. Skye would be furious when she discovered Tempest had been kidnapped. Especially when she learned that her sister had jumped into danger to help a stranger in need. Her heart fell. Skye had always thought Tempest was too impetuous, and this would confirm it. There wasn’t anything else for it, she’d have to load her plate with humble pie and dig right in.
‘It’s going to take a bit of explaining but they’ll help. My brother-in-law Daniel has all the resources we’ll need.’
Jake squinted out at the darkening sky.
‘We’ve got to get this bird out of sight. We can’t fly around much longer anyway, it’s getting dark and we don’t have enough fuel. You win, but once I’ve got a plan I’m leaving you with your sister. You’ve put yourself in too much danger as it is.’
He held the left pedal on the floor down and moved the cyclic stick, changing the helicopter’s course.
They flew over empty fields, until an old Georgian house came into view.
Tempest pointed. ‘You can land in the field beside the house. Helicopters often land there.’
Daniel travelled by helicopter to the airport for his frequent trips outside the country. As an actor, he was often away on location and Tempest’s sister, Skye, usually went with him. Tempest lived in the cottage on the estate and looked after things whenever they were away. Today, Skye and Daniel were definitely home. The Mercedes and the Mini sat like Dinky toys on the gravel of the front sweep, and light streamed out from full-length windows as they landed on the lawn. Tempest screwed up her face and closed her eyes. Skye would be furious when she discovered her sister had dived straight into a dangerous situation again.
‘Whatever the hell it is, it can’t be that bad, and if it is, we can just fly away again.’
Tempest pried an eye open. Jake was laughing at her. The sight should have made her angry, but instead her heart lightened in happiness. She was home. They were safe.
She pulled off the headset and unstrapped her belt. Skye and Daniel were standing at the fence, waiting for the rotating blades to slow down.
‘Now. Keep your head down,’ Jake said.
She flung the door open, and ran towards the safety of the fence.
‘Tempest?’ Her sister’s gaze swept over Tempest’s filthy, ripped clothes and bare feet. Her face crumpled in concern. Skye reached out and grabbed Tempest, holding her so tight she was cutting off her air supply. The frantic thudding of Skye’s heart pounded against her chest. ‘What’s happened?’
Tempest breathed in the sweet smell of her sister’s hair. Everything would be alright. She was home. Skye would understand.
‘Skye, Daniel, this is Jake.’
She eased out of Skye’s arms. It was the sort of introduction she’d make at one of her sister’s many cocktail parties, made totally surreal by the fact she was introducing him in a field under a darkening sky.
‘We were kidnapped and escaped. We need your help.’
Skye covered her mouth with a shaking hand. A soft gasp escaped her. ‘Oh Tee, I’m so sorry. When you didn’t come home, I thought…’
‘That I was off gallivanting somewhere?’ Her hurt pride stung, then faded at Skye’s obvious distress. ‘You know me better than that, I told you I was on my way home.’
‘Skye was worried and rang Alison, who suggested you’d met a nice guy on the way and changed your plans.’ Daniel put a protective arm around his wife. ‘We didn’t believe her. We tried your cell, but there was no reply. Now we know why.’
‘I understand. It’s not your fault, Mum can be very persuasive.’ Poor Skye must have been worried sick. In response, Tempest hugged her sister again. ‘Mum’s probably imagining me off in the south of France or something, romanced by a passing Lothario.’
A fist clenched in her stomach. If her mother’s scathing opinion didn’t hurt so much it would be funny. She was so tired, she couldn’t even pretend indifference. Her shoulders sagged, and a wave of utter defeat flooded her. Tempest’s mother always had that effect. Even at a distance.
Skye’s gaze focused on Tempest’s feet and widened in horror. ‘Oh, your poor feet! We need to get you inside.’
The horizon tilted as Jake swept her up into his arms. The warmth of his chest against hers banished the chill, and a rush of primitive excitement set her senses alight. It was doing crazy things to her, things she had no power to control. She squirmed, but his arms just gripped tighter.
‘I don’t need to be carried.’
Her heart was beating so fast she could barely breathe. Her face felt hot, and must be flushed red. She breathed in his now-familiar scent, and her head swam. His hands grasped the back of her knees, and she felt their heat like a branding iron. She licked dry lips, tasting salt from the island on them.
‘I beg to differ. You can’t walk across gravel in your bare feet.’
Skye nodded, and strode ahead into the house, opening doors. ‘Bring her in here.’
Jake finally released her in the kitchen. Skye had grabbed a couple of soft woollen throws from the sitting room as they passed through it. She draped one around her sister and handed the other to Jake.
‘Jake, you look freezing, stand closer to the Aga.’ She eased Tempest down onto a chair, and sat down next to her. ‘What happened?’
‘Tempest saw two men bundle me into a van. She tried to help and got taken too. It’s a long story.’ A rueful smile turned up the corner of Jake’s mouth. ‘I must contact the police. My mother is a curator at the British Museum. We suspect the gang may have snatched me in order to get to her.’ He paused and stared at Daniel, recognition dawning. ‘Aren’t you Daniel Adams?’
‘Yeah, I am.’
Her brother-in-law shifted from foot to foot. As one of Hollywood’s leading actors he was used to the spotlight, but embarrassed when his fame came up in his private life. ‘You’re American?’
‘Yes. My name’s Jake Forrester, from New York.’
‘Jake Forrester of Forrester Systems?’ Daniel grasped Jake’s hand. ‘We’ve installed your infrared stuff in my New York Studio. Your ideas are amazing.’
They sized each other up while Skye looked on. ‘Hey, our men get on. That’s a first,’ she whispered.
‘Probably because Jake’s not my man, we only met this morning.’
But I’d like him to be
Where had that come from? Tiredness must be playing tricks with her head. There was a thin smear of blood on the cold tile floor. The cuts on her bare feet stung.
When she spoke, it was a feeble croak. ‘Jake needs medical attention. His wrists … ’
‘I need a phone first,’ Jake said. ‘To call the police.’
‘I’ll call Philip Jones.’ Daniel reached for his cell phone. ‘Last year, I had a problem with a stalker. Philip was the Detective Inspector in charge of the investigation, and we’ve become friends. I’ll call him now, tell him what’s going on. Do you have the GPS coordinates for where they were holding you?’
Jake nodded. ‘In the chopper.’
Daniel grabbed the torch on his way out of the door, closely followed by Jake.
‘I’m sorry I believed Mum.’
Skye put her arm around Tempest’s shoulders. Reassurance and love bled from the contact, and Tempest soaked it up like cotton wool soaking up blood. Drama with Mum was the last thing on her mind. She had the love of her sister. That was enough for now. Skye, however, hadn’t finished.
‘I know now isn’t the time, but I’m annoyed with her.’ Her voice sharpened, and her arm squeezed tighter. ‘You’re my sister and I love you. How dare she make those assumptions about you? You’ve done nothing to deserve them.’
Tempest’s heart swelled. Skye was always on her side. Like their father had been. Tears pricked behind her eyelids. The adrenalin rush now completely depleted, her body sagged, like a rag doll’s. She mustered every atom of strength she had, and forced out an answer.
‘I appreciate the thought, Skye, but it’s my fight. I’m just choosing my moment, that’s all. And right now I need a shower.’
Her shirt, covered in the red clay of the cave, clung damply to her chest. She sniffed. The horrible smell was definitely her. The cuts on her feet stung, and flicks of blood and dirt covered the floor.
Skye glanced down with a gasp. ‘Oh, Tee. Your poor feet.’
Skye pulled clean clothes from the laundry basket, forehead pleating as her white teeth worried her lip.
‘Come on, I’ll help.’ She helped Tempest up carefully. ‘When you’re out of the shower, put on these fluffy bed socks and come back down. I’ll bandage your feet in the kitchen.’
Tempest arched her back under the pounding water. A trickle of black slithered down her body, then swirled around her feet. She rubbed a handful of shampoo into her hair, feeling the ache of a bruise under her hairline. There was one on her hip too. She smoothed her fingers over the greenish-black marks. The sound of the falling water soothed her, like a sudden deluge on a summer day. She breathed in the warm steam. The water was doing its magic, bringing her back to life. Her stomach growled, and she climbed out and wrapped herself in one of Skye’s huge, fluffy, white bath sheets. When she’d dressed in the warm sweats Skye had provided, she brushed her hair and dabbed it with a towel.
She sniffed. The delicious scent of warm bread and one of Skye’s notorious casseroles came wafting up from downstairs. Her mouth watered.
‘You look better.’ Skye pulled out a chair, and helped Tempest onto it. ‘So, how did you get involved in all this? The last I heard you were on your way to the train.’
‘I was.’ Skye wasn’t going to like this part. Tempest rubbed the ache blooming at her temples. ‘But then I saw them push Jake into a van.’
Skye’s eyes widened, and her mouth fell open into a perfect O.
‘I attacked the attacker.’
Even to Tempest’s ears, it sounded ridiculous. Her mouth twisted in a wry grin. Skye jumped up and planted her hands on her hips. She swallowed, her gaze darting from side to side. Struggling for words. Momentarily speechless.
‘You could have been seriously hurt, Tee. Even
’ Skye’s voice rose to a crescendo. ‘Damn it! You should think before you jump in.’
‘Look before I leap, yes. I know. But he was in trouble, Skye. You know I can’t just leave someone who’s in trouble. And you know why.’
Skye’s anger faded. She nodded, and her arms dropped to her sides. ‘I don’t like it, but I understand it.’
Skye filled a basin with water, pulled a hank off the roll of cotton wool she’d left on the table, and added disinfectant to the water. She picked up Tempest’s aching foot and cradled it in her lap.
‘This is going to sting a little.’
The mother of all understatements.
Tempest winced, and bit down on her bottom lip. The disinfectant hurt like hell. The kitchen door creaked open, and Jake walked in, shooting rapid-fire words into his mobile.
‘The men who snatched us are John Alton and Bill Merton.’ Jake read details from the driving licenses they’d taken on the island. ‘Bill confirmed they work for Paul Grey, my business partner. Make that my
A muscle twitched in his clenched jaw and his fingers formed a fist at his side. He looked strong and dangerous. Tempest was glad she was on his side. God help his enemies.
‘Paul is with my mother now. I need to get to her.’ He listened to the detective’s response and didn’t like it, if his body language was any indication. ‘No,’ he continued, adamant. ‘I can’t just stay put.’
A muscle twitched in the corner of Jake’s jaw. It was clear he was being forced to agree to something. Something that stuck in his craw.
‘Fine. Here’s Daniel.’
Jake thrust the phone at Daniel and started pacing.
‘What’s going on?’ Tempest asked.
‘He says it’s too dangerous. Right now, Paul doesn’t know we’ve escaped. But if I turn up at my mother’s, I’ll tip them off. Things could get ugly.’
Daniel finished the call and sat down at the table.
‘Philip is sending a team to pick the goons up from the island. Two undercover guys will stake out your mother’s apartment. He’ll report back as soon as he has anything.’