Verity deserves a proper courtship.

Jonas frowned into the mirror, wondering where that thought had come from. Was that what he was doing? Courting Verity? No, not quite. He wanted to learn her secrets, but that wasn't the same as wanting to marry the woman, for Christ's sake.

Jonas finished shaving and took his shower. By the time he was dressed and had water on the stove for instant coffee, the cabin was finally beginning to get warm. He made a mental note to see what he could do about the lousy heating system. He was supposed to be a handyperson, after all.

And if he didn't get the system fixed, it was going to be one long, chilly winter here by the lake.

Of course, the winter would be far more comfortable if he moved in with his boss, Jonas told himself.

He fingered the earring in his pocket as he stood by the stove waiting for the water to boil. From the kitchen window he could see the light in Verity's bedroom window. She was up early, as usual.

A slow smile of satisfaction and anticipation edged his mouth. The gold circlet in his pocket felt warm to the touch, and the faint pulse of the earring's vibrations was full of promise. Just like Verity.

* * *

Verity spent Monday morning taking inventory and planning menus for the week ahead. She would have to arrange for a delivery of rice and a few other staples, she noted. The supply of buckwheat was almost gone; her buckwheat crepes had proven quite popular. She sat at the desk in her tiny office and sipped coffee while she made lists, checked accounts, and paid bills.

The work was fairly routine and she found herself thinking about other things while she wrote out checks and made notes. Mostly what she thought about was Jonas Quarrel.

Verity still didn't understand quite what had happened last night in the spa pool. True, she was twenty-eight years old and still a virgin, but she was far from naive. She had been kissed before and had derived moderate pleasure from the process.

But what she had been discovering last night could hardly be described as moderate. It couldn't even be described as purely physical. Something more had been involved, something that went beyond the physical. On one level she felt vaguely alarmed, but on another, more immediate level, Verity was dangerously intrigued. She wondered how far things would have gone if Laura Griswald hadn't walked into the spa room.

She was very much afraid she knew the answer to that question, and her insides tightened at the knowledge.

Everything had felt so right when Jonas held her in his arms. After all these years of waiting and wondering, things had finally felt right.

But they had felt right with the wrong man. It wasn't fair. Her father had warned her once that life was not always fair, she reflected. It was more of a crapshoot, he had explained. A game without any rules except those an individual made for himself.

Perhaps it was just as well that Laura had interrupted matters, Verity decided as she put away the large check register. She needed time to think before she became any more involved with Jonas Quarrel. The last thing she wanted in her life was another drifter, even if he did know the secret of stirring her senses.

She frowned thoughtfully, wondering if Jonas had gained any wrong impressions from what had happened last night. Then she told herself there was nothing to worry about. In all the ways that counted, she was the one in charge around here. If worst came to worst, she could always fire him.

As she comforted herself with that thought, the phone rang. Verity smiled wryly as she reached for the receiver. It didn't take much intuition to guess who would be calling.

"Hello, Laura," Verity said without any preamble. "The answers are, I don't know, no, and I doubt it."

"How did you know what I was going to ask?" Laura demanded ruefully.

"You want to know where Jonas Quarrel came from, if he's already my lover, and if he isn't, will he be."

"I'll take comfort in the 'I doubt it' answer. There's still hope," Laura shot back. "You really did hire him?"

"He showed up looking for a job on Friday afternoon. He arrived just as I was about to pick up the phone and yell for help."

"Well, he's interesting, I'll grant you that. But as much as I'd like to see you involved in a love affair, it's my duty to advise caution. These days a woman can't be too careful. Did you check his references?"

"You know me, Laura, I always check references."

"Well? What did you learn?"

"To summarize: He's an expert on Renaissance history and he's got a lot of experience washing dishes, tending bar, and bouncing drunks. He's drifted most of the way around the world earning a living with those job skills."

"You don't have a bar and you don't get many drunks at the No Bull," Laura pointed out. "Nor are you in the business of teaching Renaissance history."

"True, but I do need a dishwasher. He's a hard worker, Laura."

"He looked more like a fast worker to me. I couldn't believe it when I walked into the spa last night and saw you wrapped around him."

She heard the back door open and close and knew Jonas was in the cafe kitchen. Her fingers tightened on the phone. "Don't exaggerate. I was hardly wrapped around him. It was a simple kiss, Laura. Don't make too much out of it."

"Are you kidding? After three years of trying to match you up with a nice stockbroker or lawyer and getting nowhere for all my pains, you turn around and jump into a spa with your newest dishwasher and I'm not supposed to make too much out of it?"

Verity chuckled. "You should be grateful and infinitely relieved, Laura. For three years you've said my biggest problem was that I was too picky."

"Your biggest problem is that you're going to spend your whole life looking for a man who has all your father's strengths and none of his weaknesses."


"Common sense, which you usually have plenty of, should have told you by now that you're not going to find that combination in any normal male. You are too picky. Much too picky. But there's no need to go crazy now that you've decided to be more reasonable in what you demand in a man. Let me find you someone interesting from my guest list for next weekend. Now, I've got a nice doctor down here, age forty, and he's coming by himself. Probably divorced."

"Or g*y."

"No. If he were g*y, he'd probably be checking in with another man," Laura said thoughtfully. "I think this doctor might be a viable candidate."

"Listen, Laura, I'd love to chat about my problems but right now I've got to go. I've got a million things to do and..."

"And your dishwasher just walked through the door, right?"

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