Authors: Sally Clements
Tempest waved an arm to show she’d heard. After a few moments ‘alone time’, she drained her coffee and came back in. Daniel strolled in from the corridor and refilled his coffee cup.
‘Philip just called. I gave him the GPS position and he put up a bird to retrieve those guys from the island. The plan was to stash them in a safe house so they have no chance to tell Paul you’ve escaped, and leave two detectives in their place in case anyone else visits.’
He looked uneasy and a cold hard stone settled in Jake’s stomach. The news was bad, he could tell from Daniel’s eyes.
‘They weren’t there. The coordinates led to an island off the coast, which has daily boat trips to bring birdwatchers to the island. Philip thinks they must have got free somehow and hitched a lift with a boat which called in there yesterday afternoon.’
‘We took their money. That should slow them down.’ Tempest sounded hopeful, but everyone knew with one telephone call Paul would know of their escape.
Daniel nodded, then continued. ‘They’ve put out an all-points bulletin. Surveillance reports that Paul and a cousin of yours have moved in with your mother.’
Jake stood up and paced the kitchen, his hands forming fists. ‘I don’t have any cousins, there’s just the two of us. I can’t believe Paul’s done this. I trusted him. I’ve known him all my life. We grew up together in New York before I moved to France after my dad died.’
Jake never talked about his father. Even to acquaintances he’d known for years. The only one who knew the secrets of his past was Paul. And Paul had abused that trust, in the worst way possible. An invisible vice tightened around his chest.
Daniel’s voice was calm and measured, as if he recognized Jake’s torment and was trying to offer some sort of hope. ‘Phillip has bugged both your mother’s phone and Paul’s. We’ll know if they manage to contact him before they’re picked up. He suggested we go ahead and plan to make the substitution.’
‘We’ll need help to get the transmitters. Is there someone in your company you can trust?’ Tempest asked.
‘Carter Wells.’ Jake had spent countless hours with his security head, working through the kinks in his newest devices. He grimaced as memories flooded back. ‘Carter told me he thought Paul was up to something, but I didn’t listen.’
He hadn’t wanted to even countenance the idea Paul might be working against him. Foolishly, he’d been deaf, dumb and blind, where Paul was concerned.
‘I can contact Carter secretly – his number’s scrambled.’
‘We need two transmitters to hide inside the replicas; can he get into the office and get them?’ Daniel asked.
‘He has a couple of test samples at home. We can use those.’
‘We should measure the bracelets to make sure they’ll fit.’ Tempest walked to the back door, throwing a glance over her shoulder. ‘You coming?’
Jake drained his coffee cup and followed her into the warmth of the garden.
‘Where are we going?’
Tempest wove through the grass ahead of him, the maple box tucked securely under her arm. He sneaked an appreciative peek at her bottom encased in soft denim wiggling in front of him.
‘To my house.’ She held back an overhanging branch to reveal a small cottage through the riotous undergrowth. ‘I’m staying in the cottage for a while.’ Tempest walked past the red front door and continued down a path towards a smaller building. ‘I’ve got the shed all decked out for my work.’
She unlocked the door, and flicked on the light switch. Jake’s eyes widened. Glass boxes containing different stones and precious metals covered every surface. On one side of the room was a small kiln, and below the surface of the worktop was a safe. Tempest placed the box on the worktop and opened it. She pulled a bracelet out of the bag. In the sunlight, it was the most beautiful piece of jewellery he had ever seen.
‘I don’t understand.’
‘How could I have made them already, when I’ve only just got the contract?’ A smile curved her mouth as she held the piece. ‘I follow my instincts, Jake. Skye and Mum think I’m crazy, but when I get a hunch I follow it.’
She handed him the bracelet and he turned the heavy cuff around in his big hands.
‘I was commissioned to make two of these for the Egypt Museum, and when I sourced the lapis lazuli,’ she reached a finger out and stroked the matt blue stone which formed the centrepiece of the bracelet, ‘I bought enough to complete four. I knew I’d get another commission. In fact, the feeling was so strong I started work on the bracelets as soon as I could. I bought enough gold to complete them and have spent the past two months making these.’
He searched her eyes for some sign of deceit. It was more than convenient that the bracelets were right there, just when they were needed.
‘Buying the raw materials must have cost a lot.’
Tempest chewed on her bottom lip. ‘It did, and the fact that I’d followed my instincts into debt was a major irritation to my mother. She’s been giving Skye a really hard time about it.’
He was missing something here. ‘Why berate Skye? Why not go directly to the perpetrator?’
‘Because I’m not talking to her, or taking her messages.’ Her lips tightened, and her shoulders stiffened. She clearly didn’t want to talk about her mother. ‘As Skye’s my older sister, my mother always holds her responsible for everything I do wrong.’
It didn’t sound remotely fair, in fact it sounded crazy, but he didn’t have either the time or the inclination to question her further. They had a job to do and precious little time to do it.
‘Well, looks like you were lucky, this time anyway. You got the contract didn’t you?’
‘It wasn’t luck. I knew I’d be asked to make more.’ The stubborn set of her shoulders warned him this was a familiar battle, and one she intended to win.
‘Well, by this quality of workmanship, it was logical to assume you’d win another contract. I reckon it was an acceptable risk.’
‘Do you always evaluate the risks?’
He nodded, moving closer. ‘Always.’ She was compelling in this combative mood. Heck, she was compelling in any mood. ‘It’s the only way to keep things under control.’
‘Oh.’ Her eyes shone as she smiled back at him. ‘I guess being in control is good.’
Yeah, being in control was good. Being in control was what Jake did best. Until now.
He leaned closer, gazing into Tempest’s eyes. The black circle of her irises expanded and her full lips parted a fraction. He shouldn’t do this. They had work to do. His mother was in danger. But right now, none of that mattered.
All that mattered was touching her. Jake traced the faint sprinkling of freckles that dusted the bridge of her nose, and then ran his fingers down over her warm skin to linger across her lips. Her breath whispered in and out, and her lips parted at his touch. Her eyelashes flickered, and she arched her back angling her mouth towards his in invitation. Jake moaned as his legendary control dissolved in a wave of desire.
She was irresistible.
Their kiss was no soft, tender exploration, but a frantic mating that heated his blood and had him forgetting his own name. His fingers swept around under her heavy curtain of hair to cup her nape, holding her in place as he plundered her soft mouth again and again. Through a haze of blistering sensation he barely registered her moan, and then her arms slid around his back, forcing him closer. Her chest was flattened against his, but his fevered body yearned for more. The urge to feel her skin on his had him reaching for the hem of her top, sliding his fingers under it over her silken skin. A sound permeated his fogged brain. A ringing.
‘That’s the…the um, the intercom.’
Tempest stumbled away. She was breathing heavily, and her face was flushed. She looked as stunned as he felt. Jake sucked in a breath and dropped his hands to his sides, releasing her to answer the phone.
What just happened?
His body was raging out of control, like a teenager in the grip of his first ever make-out session. Five minutes kissing Tempest had wiped everything from his mind – their mission, the upcoming heist, even his mother. He strode to the door and pulled it open, breathing in shuddering lungfuls of air like a drowning man.
She looked sweet and innocent, but she kissed like…
His tired brain couldn’t describe how she kissed, but he wanted more of it. His erection pushed against the zip of his jeans in unusual instant arousal. The sky filled with darkening clouds. Matching his mood as his heart rate slowed, and his body calmed now that he was away from her body’s potent spell.
Her soft voice came from behind him. ‘That was Skye. She found Ayman Omar’s number. He’s the curator of the Egypt Museum as well as one of my father’s oldest friends
Inspector Jones phoned and explained the situation, and now I have to call him and organize the switch. Do you think the transmitters will fit inside the lapis lazuli stones? Are they small enough?’
She was all business. Good. He didn’t have time to be distracted. His mother’s safety depended on him. He pulled in a breath, forcing thoughts of kissing her from his mind.
He picked up one of the bracelets from the counter and examined it. ‘Yes, they’ll fit inside easily.’
It would be safer to go it alone, but there was no way to get his hands on the new miniature transmitters without involving someone from the company. And Carter was the only one he could trust.
‘I need to call Carter, Have you a phone I can borrow?’
‘I lost my phone in the struggle, but I have a spare one.’ Jake’s eyebrows shot heavenwards as Tempest handed him a shell-pink phone.
‘I didn’t want to be mugged.’ Her face flushed pink.
‘No danger of that.’ He flipped the phone open. The background picture was of a pyramid. ‘You have a major Egypt fixation.’
‘My father was an Egyptologist; he spent most of his life there.’ The corner of her lips tightened as she stared at the ground. ‘He died there too.’ Her eyes flickered up to his, surprise evident in their blue depths as he stroked the back of her hand gently.
She bit her lip. Indecision flickered across her face. Jake waited, not wanting to think about how much it mattered whether she would trust him or not.
‘He was on his way back from the museum when he was set upon and beaten. They left him to die on the road.’
Tempest’s back was rigid. Her whole body quivered. She was holding something back. The worst was yet to come.
‘But that wasn’t all, was it?’
Tempest curled her fingers around his and clutched so tight it hurt. ‘No.’ Her voice was little more than a whisper. ‘But that’s enough for now.’
He pulled her close, resting her head on his shoulder as she cried, her shudders shaking through to his core. After a while, the shuddering stopped and she pulled back.
‘I haven’t talked about it for a long time.’ Her gaze skittered to the corner of the room. His arms were cold and empty without her. The moment stretched, one beat, two. She looked at her watch. ‘Egypt’s two hours ahead, I’d better go up to the house and call Ayman before it gets too late.’
She walked away as he tapped in Carter’s number.
Carter was shocked to hear the news, but not surprised, and to Jake’s relief he quickly and efficiently took down details on Skye, Tempest and Daniel.
Jake pitched his voice low. ‘I need to know if they’re involved, or if they’re as innocent as they seem.’ After Paul’s treachery, he wasn’t capable of taking anything at face value. ‘I’ll see you later tonight.’
A niggle of betrayal bit at his gut. He was in danger of being seduced by Tempest’s soft mouth and tearful face, but his mother’s life hung in the balance. He had to be sure.
They met up with the others for lunch around the kitchen table. The large kitchen was warm and welcoming with its honey-pine cupboards and burnt sienna walls. Light streamed in from the huge windows, and dust motes danced in the bright sunlight. It was a room designed to soothe, yet Jake paced up and down, unable to settle down and eat.
‘The police picked the kidnappers up at the train station and are interrogating them now. There are two undercover guys on the island and they’ll report if there’s any activity.’ Daniel tore a strip off the French bread and loaded it with ham and salad. ‘They’ve got a team observing your mother, but they say there’s nothing unusual to report. How did you get on, Tee?’
‘Inspector Jones was in contact with the Egypt police. Ayman is on his way to London with the gold, and we’re going to give him the replicas at Heathrow. We’ve got a day and a half to get everything ready before he arrives in London,’ she explained.
‘I can’t get in contact with Carter. He’s not answering his phone.’ The lie slipped easily from Jake’s mouth as he circled the table. ‘I’ll have to go to the office and find out what’s going on. Have you a car I can borrow, Daniel?’
Tempest reached out a slender hand and grasped his arm as he passed in his relentless stalking of the room.
‘You can’t, Jake, if they see you…’
‘She’s right; you could put your mother in more danger.’
Jake cursed Daniel’s measured response. Vivienne was his mother, his responsibility, and if anything should happen to her… Pain lanced him at the thought of losing his mother too.
He crossed his arms over his chest, and faced the room. ‘It would be safer if I went to his home. I could stake it out and wait for him.’
Daniel looked sceptical. ‘Do you know where he lives?’
‘I’ve been there before working through the fine points of the design. It’s in a densely wooded area; I should be able to get into the house undetected.’
Mutinous faces stared back at Jake, but he ignored them.
‘I’ll come with you.’ Tempest’s blue gaze nailed his. ‘You might need back-up.’
‘I’ll go alone.’
There was absolutely no way he would let her walk into trouble again. And she couldn’t find out what he was up to either. Carter was expecting him to come alone. He would have the information and transmitters ready for midnight.
‘You can’t go, Tempest. They’ve seen you too, remember? I’ll go.’ Daniel rested a hand on Jake’s shoulder. ‘She’s right. You need the back-up.’