She stared at him, stunned by the intensity of his words. "Jonas, please, I don't know what's going on here."

"Yes, you do. You're not a child. You're a woman and you're attracted to me. I've seen it in your eyes. I can make you want me, honey. Really want me. I knew it when I kissed you in the spa." His voice was low, caressing, mesmerizing. "God knows, I want you. Let me have you. Give yourself to me. Let me show you how good it can be between us. Verity, I need you. Now. Tonight. I've waited as long as I can."

In that moment she believed him. He wasn't the only one who seemed to have the power to look into souls tonight. She was looking at him but she was also looking into him in a way she could not explain.

She knew only that when he did battle with his silent ghosts, the struggle was not unlike what she had gone through dealing with the strange, amorphous fear that had swamped her earlier.

She did not comprehend the nature of Jonas's ghosts or of the battle being waged, but Verity knew with a woman's certainty that he spoke nothing less than the truth when he said he needed her tonight. She could feel the driving sensual force in him and knew it was focused totally on her.

And, with a small sigh, she acknowledged to herself that she needed him, too. She wanted him to drive away the memories of the dread she had felt a while ago, even though a part of her insisted on connecting him with that same panic. It didn't make sense in any logical fashion, but it made incontrovertible sense to the deeply hidden primal part of her nature. She and Jonas belonged together tonight. They needed each other.

For Verity the sensation was unique. She had never before felt this kind of need for a man.

The sighs of the breeze-ruffled pines haunted the night as Verity stood facing Jonas. Another shiver went through her but this one was not generated by cold or fear. This quickening of her senses was linked only to the man whose strong, elegant hands still gripped the lapels of her coat.

The intuitive realization that had come to her the first time he kissed her returned to her now in an overwhelming wave. This was the right man; the one she had been waiting for.

Instinctively she moved closer, seeking the warmth of Jonas's body and simultaneously pushing aside the feminine caution that had kept her safe from a man's demands for twenty-eight years. She rested her head on his shoulder, silently giving him the answer he sought. Jonas shuddered heavily and wrapped his arms around her.

"Yes," he rasped. "Oh, Christ, Verity, yes."

Then his mouth closed over hers, hot, hungry, filled with restless urgency.

This kiss was unlike the one in the spa pool. That one had only hinted at the passion that lay buried in the man. This time Verity found herself inundated with a resonating need unlike anything she had ever before experienced. It swamped her senses the way the unnamed fear had overtaken her earlier in her father's cabin.

But this time she felt no more than a fleeting desire to run. Her need to stay and sample the maelstrom of passion overcame twenty-eight years of wariness and caution. She surrendered to the moment, feeling her senses come alive with a new kind of sensitivity. Excitement swept through her.

But above all there was a driving need to answer the demand radiating from Jonas. Verity knew that she might have been able to resist the lure of passion, but the need to give Jonas what he wanted so desperately tonight was irresistible. She had never been needed like this. She had never wanted a man like this. Her head was spinning with the glittering lures held out before her in shining array. Heedlessly she reached to take hold of the priceless jewel of passion. Her arms went around Jonas's neck and she plunged her fingertips into the darkness of his hair.

"Verity," he groaned. "Sweet tyrant. I'm going to learn all your secrets tonight. Every last one of them.

No more games."

His hands tightened around her, forcing her closer until she could feel the hard outline of his aroused manhood. The rough fabric of his jeans was taut across his groin. He moved against her, making her tremble in response.

"You feel so damn good," he muttered thickly. He nuzzled the sensitive place behind her ear and then he found the lobe with his teeth, sampling her with exquisite care. Verity moaned and locked her arms more urgently around him. "Sosoft. I'm half out of my mind with wanting you. I need to be inside you.

I need to feel you wrapped around me." He released her slightly and started urgently along the path.

Verity stumbled along beside him, her footsteps made awkward by the combination of Jonas's tight hold and by her own shimmering sense of anticipation.

When they reached the cabin door, Jonas fumbled briefly with the unlocked door and then they were inside. The pleasant warmth and light enveloped them.

Verity stood blinking in the glare of the light until Jonas reached out and flipped the wall switch. Instantly the room was plunged into darkness.

"We don't need the light," he said.

She looked up at him and realized he was right. She could see all she needed to see of him. Almost too much, in fact. There was enough moonlight filtering through the cabin windows to reveal the starkly aroused expression on his harsh face and the burning heat in his eyes. Maybe it was better to view him in the soft glow of the moon rather than the more revealing glare of artificial light. Verity wasn't sure she could take the full impact of what she would see. For an instant she knew a jolt of fear once more.

"Jonas, I..."

"Hush," he said, kissing her back into silence. "I've told you I'll take care of you. You'll be safe with me."

She wondered why he was so determined to promise safety but there was no opportunity to ask. Jonas was already untying the sash of her coat and unbuttoning the oversized buttons.

"I knew it," he muttered as the coat fell to the floor. There was satisfaction in his voice. "I knew you were wearing your nightgown. I sat there watching you sip that vodka and I got hard just thinking about what you had on under that coat. Did you come to see me tonight intending to stay with me until morning, sweetheart?" He touched his tongue to the corner of her mouth. "Were you going to seduce me after you had apologized?"

She shook her head violently. "No. I was only going to say I was sorry for yelling at you. I never meant to stay."

"Don't say that," he said, indulgent amusement in every word. "You don't know for certain what you wanted. You don't even know your own secrets."

"And you think you do?" she challenged softly.

"I can only guess at some of them." His fingers worked the tiny buttons of her flannel nightgown until he had it open to her br**sts. When he brushed against the gentle swell of her softness he sighed hungrily.