Lost in the frozen woods of New Hampshire, Penelope Chestnut discovers the wreckage of a small plane. An aviator herself, she sees clues to a conspiracy in the rusted-out remains.
Rumors of her discovery bring Wyatt Sinclair to Cold Spring, determined to put to rest a family scandal and learn what really happened to his legendary uncle, who had disappeared with his adventuress lover years earlier.
As Wyatt and Penelope investigate, old motives are uncovered and new ones created, including a growing attraction between the pair. But when an unknown enemy emerges with a violence rooted in desperation, uncovering the truth will be far less problematic than surviving it.
Originally published in 1999
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"It wasn't, but anything to justify butter and jam." She split open a scone, spread a generous amount of butter and checked her tea. "Another minute." She settled in her chair, trying to ignore a flutter in the pit of her stomach. Lying to the national media was one thing, to a Sinclair another. "I'm sorry I got your family all stirred up about your uncle's plane."
Wyatt broke off a piece of his scone, smeared on a bit of butter. "I'd like to hear your story from start to finish, if you don't mind."
"Not at all."
He smiled. "Is that the truth?"
She smiled back, her stomach twistingdamned if she'd let him ruin her afternoon tea. "Okay, so it's awkward and I'd rather not. But I'll oblige you. How's that?"
"Are you going to pick apart every sentence?"
He shrugged. "Only if I sense you're ... dissembling."
"Dissembling's just another word for lying. It's that Dartmouth education showing, huh? Well, sense away, Mr. Sinclair."
"Wyatt," he said smoothly.
She poured her tea, relieved her hand didn't shake. "Wyatt Sinclair," she said. "The only son of Brandon Sinclair, who was just eleven years old when his older brother and Frannie Beaudine slipped out during the reception honoring the donation of the Sinclair Collection to the Met." She sipped her tea. "Rumor has it Colt stopped to say goodbye to his little brother before heading to the reception."
"You'vedone your research."
She waved a hand. She wanted to establish a measure of control over their conversation but saw no need to get into what she knew about Frannie and Coltand him. "That much everyone around here knows. It's printed on diner place mats. Frannie Beaudine's sort of a local heroine."
"And the people of Cold Spring blame Colt for sweeping her off her feet and to her doom?"
Wyatt poured his tea, adding a bit of lemon, no sugar or cream. "It's been forty-five years"
"Around here, forty-five years is the blink of an eye. I mean, it's not like we're in England or Greece, but still. My father remembers both your uncle and Frannieand your grandfather, too."
"He told me."
"He was fifteen when they disappeared. He helped search for their plane. It's not so long ago."
"I suppose." Sinclair leaned back, watching Penelope as she ate her scone, which was feathery light and just perfect, but she resisted the temptation to wolf it down. "So, tell me how you mistook a dump for plane wreckage."
She'd been explaining that point since morning. On her trip to Plattsburgh, New York, and back, she'd worked out the kinks in her story. "Well, I did and I didn't. I just thought it was plane wreckageI realized I wouldn't know for sure until I went back. Because of the conditions, I only saw it from a distance. It was on a steep, icy, rocky hillside, and I didn't want to risk climbing over to get a closer look. It was late, and I was out in the woods alone."
The dark, almost black eyes settled on her. "And you were lost."