When his warm, deliriously rough palm moved down over her belly, Verity thought again of what she might have been protecting earlier that evening when she had fought to keep herself from falling. Maybe it was time to share her suspicions with Jonas.



He kissed her reassuringly. "Don't worry, I'll be very careful."

For a split second she wondered if he had guessed the truth. "Careful of what?"

"Your ankle."


"God, I want you tonight." He was stroking her with increasing urgency, seeking the magic places he had learned so well. "Welcome me home, love. I need to know how much you missed me."

Maybe this wasn't the time to tell him. Clearly, his mind was on only one thing. When he had satisfied the compelling physical need that now drove him he would be exhausted. He needed rest, she could see that.

Besides, she wasn't yet certain about the baby. Verity put her arms around Jonas's neck and pulled him close.

"Welcome home, my love," she whispered as he lowered himself along her slender length. Then he gathered her into his fierce embrace, and Verity forgot all about the future as she lost herself in the fire of their mutual passion.

A long time later, as she drifted toward sleep, Verity heard Jonas mumble something into the crook of her neck.

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"What?" she asked sleepily.

"I said, did I really sound like an enraged husband earlier?"

"Irate, not enraged. It was just a figure of speech." She was suddenly wide awake.

"A figure of speech, huh?" Jonas yawned. "You know, I think that's exactly how I felt when you came through the door in Warwick's arms. Except that irate doesn't cover it. Enraged is a little closer to reality. I wanted to put that knife into his throat. Don't ever upset me like that again, Verity."

She heard the clear warning in his words and shivered. She remembered the coldness she had seen in his brilliant eyes when he'd held the knife to Warwick's throat. There were times when it paid to remember that the man who lay beside her wasn't just a dishwasher with a Ph.D. He could be very dangerous; as ruthless as any Renaissance lord who had ever fought to protect what he considered his own.

And this was the man she loved, the man who was the father of her child. If she was carrying one.

Verity touched her stomach again. It was a long time before she was able to sleep.

"So you see," Verity concluded over breakfast the next morning, "it's a wonderful opportunity for you, Jonas. Assuming you didn't blow the whole thing last night, of course. I've already put the Warwicks'

retainer in a special bank account, and arranged to have the rest of your fee paid at the end of the assignment. They'll cover all expenses. Just think of what a perfect job this is! We get a paid vacation, and you'll get a real start on developing a consulting business."

Jonas spooned up the last of his cereal. He chewed and swallowed slowly, considering his options.

Verity was looking decidedly determined this morning. There was a vivid gleam of expectation in her aquamarine eyes that warned him to tread warily. She obviously wanted him to accept the Warwicks'

offer of a consulting job. Jonas, however, wasn't keen on the idea. He preferred to stay right here in Sequence Springs, spending the rest of the winter making love to Verity and learning to cook gourmet vegetarian food.

"A vacation in the San Juan Islands in the middle of winter is not exactly the same as a week in Hawaii,"

he pointed out.

"I know, but I think this opportunity is simply too good to pass up."

"Doing an analysis of the. villa will be fairly straightforward, but you do realize that a four-hundred-year-old legend is not going to produce any real treasure, don't you? Talk about a wild goose chase… "

"That's what Laura said. But I say, if the Warwicks are willing to pay you to chase geese, why should you complain? The treasure hunt is a side issue, anyway. The main thing is the report on the villa."

Jonas tried to think of another argument. He had a hunch that anything he came up with would get shot down. The whole idea sounded like a complete waste of time, but he was, as usual, feeling indulgent after spending a night in bed with Verity. The woman was slowly but surely wrapping him around her little finger. It was not an unpleasant feeling, he decided.

"I'll tell you what," he said finally, deciding to be generous. "I'll talk to the Warwicks myself this morning."

"You'd better apologize about the knife first."

"Don't push your luck, Verity."

"I'm not pushing my luck. I'm pushing you. Honestly, if I didn't, I think you would be content to wash dishes the rest of your life."

"I don't see the problem. You need a dishwasher. You also need a keeper. In me you get bom for the price of one."

She smiled the dazzling, full-of-promise smile that always made Jonas catch his breath.

"Such a deal," she murmured. She picked up the plates and bowls and reached for the poker to steady herself.

"I'll take care of the dishes. I'm a pro, remember?" Jonas said. He frowned in concern as she started to hop toward the kitchen, the dishes wobbling in her hands. "Sit down, honey."

"Don't worry about me. I've got this hobbling business down to a fine art. I think I'll soak my foot in one of the spa pools later today."

"Verity… "

She stopped to drop a kiss on his forehead. "Thanks for agreeing to take the job, Jonas. I just know it's going to be the beginning of a great future."

"I didn't say I'd take the job. I just agreed to talk to the Warwicks," he reminded her, knowing that he was fighting a useless battle.

"You'll like them," she assured him breezily as she resumed her awkward progress toward the kitchen.

"Elyssa's a little odd, but Doug's nice and normal. He's… Oops!"

Jonas saw the stack of bowls sway like a highrise building in an earthquake. He watched in fascination as they slid slowly off the empty toast plate and started the short drop to the hardwood floor. Casually reaching out, he caught the bowls in one hand, and placed them carefully on the table.

Verity sighed. "How do you do it, Jonas?"

"Do what?"

"You're so coordinated. I don't think you even realize how smooth and controlled you are when you move. It's amazing."

He grinned lecherously. "Is that a roundabout way of telling me I'm good in bed?"

She sniffed disapprovingly. "Your male arrogance is showing."

"I could show you something even more male if you'll put down that plate."

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