"Digby didn't know about the chest. At least not until the end of his life. Then again, maybe the chest is still here because someone wanted it left alone."



"The guy in the vision?" Jonas suggested softly. "Digby came to the conclusion that the treasure, whatever it was, might be protected with a curse. It was one of the last entries in his diary."

Verity closed her eyes. "Jonas, don't talk like that. We're not in the business of removing curses from haunted houses. You're a consultant, not a ghost hunter. You authenticate things. You do nifty little articles on the historical significance of old weapons and villas, and maybe an occasional treasure. That's it. End of job description."

"It's here, Verity. I know it is." Apparently Jonas was not paying much attention.

"What's here?" she demanded, scowling in the darkness.

"The treasure."

"Are you nuts? It's gone. The chest is empty. Someone has already been in here and scarfed up the lot.

And then he casually knifed poor Digby on the way out the door."

"You said you knew the crystal was still around," Jonas reminded her softly.

Verity was still holding her warm red crystal earrings. She glanced at the crystal on the desk in the vision and it seemed to wink at her. "That's different," she said with great certainty.

-- Advertisement --

"No, it's not. You know the crystal is still here in the villa and I know the treasure is still here. Whatever that guy was trying to protect is still locked away, safe and sound."

"You're a tough man to argue with," Verity said with a sigh. She knew he was experiencing the same sense of certainty as she felt. There was no way to contradict such a feeling with logic. "Okay, for the sake of discussion, let's say you're right. What do we do now?"

"I've got to talk Doug Warwick into letting us stay here awhile longer," Jonas said, moving back across the room to stand beside her. They both gazed at the image. The menacing man at the desk gazed back implacably. "I have a strong hunch he'll want to call a halt to everything when he returns tomorrow."

"Can't blame him. As you said, he's got what he wants, an authentication and a professional description of the villa for his buyers. Now that Elyssa's more or less out of the picture, Doug's not going to want to spend any more time humoring her interest in psychic phenomena."

"I've got to find out what's going on here, Verity. I need to know what that guy in the vision thought was so important he had to lock it away in time."

Verity turned her head to stare at Jonas. "You think he's locked it in time? That he found a way to store it here in the time corridor or something? Jonas, do you realize what you're saying? You're implying the man in the vision had psychic talent."

Jonas nodded slowly, his eyes on the old man. "Maybe the same kind I have. Verity, there's no reason to think I'm the only man on earth who was born with the ability to enter this time tunnel. What if that guy could access it, too? What if he found a way to leave something hidden in it?"

Verity felt chilled. She clutched her parka more tightly around her. "Now that's a thought that could very well keep me awake nights."

"I have to know, Verity."

"Even if it's dangerous? What if you're right about the sense of warning you get from this vision?"

"Booby traps." Jonas's half-smile was grim. "The man liked to set traps. A real Renaissance type."

"I don't think I want the father of my baby springing any of those traps," Verity said.

"I'll be careful."

"Oh yeah?" She didn't believe him for a moment. "Jonas, I think we should call it quits."

"I have to find out what this is all about. I have to know the truth."

She knew that further argument was hopeless, so she stopped wasting her energy in that direction. "Do you think you can talk Doug into letting you stay?"

"I'll find a way." Jonas spoke with absolute conviction. "Come on, let's get back to the room. We can't do any more tonight. We're going to need that crystal." Jonas handed the broken sword hilt over to Verity. The vision and the psychic corridor vanished. "Can you really sense it?"

"The crystal? Yes." Verity thought about it as she followed Jonas out of the small room. "I don't know where it is, though. I just got the strong feeling that it's here in the villa." She fingered her earrings. "There might be a way… "

"How?" Jonas cut in eagerly.

"Oliver knows a lot about crystals. When he and I worked them together I could feel things. Jonas, I don't know. I honestly don't know what I'm doing. But it's just barely possible that Oliver could help me tune in to that missing crystal."

"I don't want Crump involved in this," Jonas stated flatly as he led the way back down the corridor.

Verity glared at his back. "Why not?"

"Because I don't want him getting any ideas."

"Ideas about what?"

Jonas halted abruptly and swung around. He was a dark, powerful mass behind the harsh beam of the flashlight. Verity could feel the masculine aggression and possessiveness radiating from him. When he spoke, his voice was cold. "I don't want him getting the idea that you're some kind of psychic pal for him; that he can use you to help him tune in to those damn crystals he's always playing with. Got it?"

Suddenly Verity understood. She angled her chin in angry challenge. "You mean you don't want him using me the way you do?"

For an instant she thought she'd gone too far. In the shadows Jonas's eyes seemed to gleam like those of a predator. The stone passageway was suddenly more confining than ever, and Verity was trapped inside it. She held her breath but she never lowered her eyes from Jonas's hard face.

It was Jonas who broke the dangerous impasse. "Right," he said very quietly. "I don't want him using you the way I do. I don't want any man on the face of the earth using you the way I do. I'm glad we understand each other." He swung around and started back down the corridor.

Verity followed, wishing she'd kept her mouth shut. She was determined not to say another word until the storm of Jonas's anger had blown over. Sometimes a woman had to bide her time.

Jonas stopped at the door that opened onto the torture chamber. Silently he found the opening mechanism and manipulated it until the door creaked open.

There were no ribald cracks about kinky lady torturers as Verity and Jonas made their way through the room and out into the hall. In fact, neither said a word all the way back to the bedroom. Verity was feeling quite cold as she removed her parka, and the chill was not a result of the villa's lousy heating system. She shouldn't have said anything about Oliver Crump, she decided morosely. It was obviously a subject best left alone.

-- Advertisement --