"Some of us have work to do. And this is your lucky day. You are among the chosen. You're actually being offered paid employment in your field of expertise. When you finish your coffee I'll call the resort and make an appointment with the Warwicks." She disappeared into the kitchen.
Jonas settled down to linger over his coffee. He sat gazing out the window into the cold, frosty woods and listened to the pleasant clatter of dishes behind him in the warm kitchen.
It was good to be home, he thought. Good to have a passionate little redhead waiting for him. Good to share a bed and breakfast with her. Good to have his books crammed into her bookcases. Good to feel he had a place where he belonged. He liked the thought of spending the rest of his life like this. He wondered how Verity would respond to that idea.
She never said much about their future together, and lately that had begun to bother him. Women were supposed to instinctively seek a sense of permanence in a relationship. They were supposed to want rings, and vows, and all the other symbolic bonds that spelled marriage and commitment.
But Verity had never once brought up the subject of marriage. That seemed strange, now that he considered it. Jonas frowned.
Last night she had accused him of acting like an enraged, no, an irate husband. Jonas let the word husband trickle through his mind again. He wondered if Verity ever visualized herself as a wife.
Probably not, he told himself realistically. Emerson had given his daughter a highly unorthodox upbringing. His main goal as a father, he'd explained, had been to teach Verity how to take care of herself in a rough world. The result had been a smart, self-reliant, fiery-tempered young woman who had managed to do just fine without a man in her life—until Jonas had arrived on the scene.
Jonas didn't kid himself about how she had managed to remain single for so long. She had driven off every eligible male with a tongue that had been honed to a fine, sharp edge. She was as good with her tongue as he was with his knife, he reflected wryly. The lady didn't hesitate to use her mouth. Jonas grinned at the thought, finished his coffee, and rose to his feet.
Verity stuck her head around the kitchen door. "You might put on a tie," she suggested brightly.
"Wouldn't want the Warwicks to think I'm trying to impress them, now would we?"
"Jonas," she said firmly, "a tie would be appropriate. You're supposed to be a professional."
He walked over to her, bent his head, and kissed her roughly on the mouth. "Like I said, lady, don't press your luck."
Verity held her breath during the formal introductions but after a few minutes she relaxed. It was obvious that Jonas was going to behave himself. After Doug Warwick realized that Jonas was apparently far more civilized in the light of day, he put out a friendly hand, which Jonas accepted with casual ease.
The four of them, Jonas and Verity, Doug and Elyssa, were seated in the resort's solarium. The glass walls provided an expansive view of Sequence Lake shimmering in the cold sunlight. Elyssa was dressed in white again, Verity noticed—white pants, white sweater, white shoes. Her jewelry sparkled in the sunlight.
"Sorry about the misunderstanding last night," Doug said. Verity thought it was very generous of him.
She smiled at him warmly.
"I appreciate your helping Verity last night," Jonas said somewhat grudgingly. Then he sprawled in a lounger and eyed his potential clients.
"How are you feeling today, Verity?" Elyssa examined the now famous ankle. "Can you put any weight on it yet?"
"A little. It's still sore, but it should be back to normal in a few days. Laura found this cane for me and it's been a great help." She waved a hardwood staff aloft. "It's left over from two years ago, when Rick threw his back out."
"I have a friend," Elyssa went on helpfully, "someone I met in one of Preston's seminars. He works with crystals. He could probably do something for you."
"I should warn you, my sister is really involved in this crap," Doug Warwick said in an aside to Jonas.
"Pay no attention to Doug," Elyssa retorted gently. "He's still very linear in his thinking. He doesn't understand that the paths to enlightenment don't always follow the straight, one-dimensional approach of most Western thought. He hasn't accepted a holistic approach to truth yet, but I have confidence that he will one day soon."
"Don't hold your breath," Doug muttered.
"I think some of the New Age ideas are very interesting," Verity declared. "After all, it's not as if they're really new. Some of these concepts have been around for thousands of years. There must be some truth to them."
"Con men have a long history, too," Jonas said blandly. "That doesn't mean there's any more truth in a modern-day con than there was five thousand years ago. That's all most of this New Age stuff is, a good con."
"Jonas!" Verity glowered at him, willing him to shut his mouth before he mortally offended one of their potential clients. "Don't pay any attention to him, Elyssa. He's just got a typical academic bias against nontraditional methods of learning." A heck of a bias for someone who happened to have psychic abilities himself, Verity thought wryly.
"I understand completely," Elyssa assured her, gazing at Jonas. She appeared to be infinitely indulgent of his petty carping. She turned back to Verity. "Will you be able to accompany Jonas to our villa with that injured ankle?"
"Oh, definitely. I'm looking forward to it." Verity nodded briskly, trying to pump some enthusiasm into Jonas. He ignored her.
"I can give you a report on the villa easily enough," Jonas said. "But I understand you also want me to chase some damned legend. I should warn you that from what Verity has told me, it sounds like a complete waste of time. Are you sure you want to pay my, uh, consulting fee to help you hunt for a treasure that probably doesn't exist?"
Doug chuckled. "It must sound a little silly to you, but I assure you that Uncle Digby was on the trail of something in that villa. Elyssa wants to see if we can find it before we get rid of the place. Since you'll be going over the villa anyway, you might as well keep an eye out for treasure."
"What makes you think your uncle Digby wasn't just loony tunes?"
"Jonas!" Verity hissed. He was being downright rude.
Elyssa smiled serenely. "It's all right, Verity. Doug and I have also wondered about Uncle Digby. He might very well have been completely insane. He was certainly an odd character. But he definitely believed there was a treasure buried in that old villa. He left a diary detailing his search for it.