Jonas winced. "I didn't exactly make your first time a fantasy come true, did I? I was in a rush and I was clumsy. It's been a long, long time since I've been to bed with a woman, and maybe I... Never mind.
Let's just say I'm aware I made a hash of things."
Her head came up so quickly Jonas almost got his chin cracked. Her eyes appeared very wide and deep and feminine in the darkness.
"Jonas, you mustn't think that. I thought your lovemaking was very," she paused, obviously searching for the right word, "interesting," she finished quite earnestly.
"Interesting?" Jonas stared at her, chagrined, and then his sense of humor kicked in. He hugged her fiercely for a few seconds. "That's my Verity. Honest to the core. Interesting, huh? Thanks, boss. You really know how to bolster the old male ego."
"But, Jonas," she went on hesitantly.
"What is it, sweetheart?"
"I really don't understand the rest of this. It's very hard for me to believe you actually followed me all this way just because you caught a glimpse of me that night outside the cantina. Men just don't do things like that in this day and age, regardless of what they might have done four hundred years ago in the Renaissance. And this business of having my father show up unexpectedly is unsettling, too. I want some time to think about everything."
Jonas stilled. He didn't like the idea of giving Verity a lot of time to think. On the other hand, he didn't see what else he could do under the circumstances. "We'll talk more in the morning," he temporized.
He found her breast beneath the sheet she insisted upon clutching. When he touched her nipple he felt it harden instantly. "Plenty of time in the morning," he muttered, his voice growing thicker as his body flamed into awareness. She was so soft and sweet, he thought. And she belonged to him now. So damn sexy. He'd really lucked out. For the first time in five years, he had finally lucked out.
"I'll do it right this time," he vowed. "We'll take it easy. Lots of time. No rush. I swear I won't hurt you. You'll see. This time it's going to be so good between us."
"Jonas, I think you should leave now."
He blinked, dazed. "Leave?"
She pushed herself away from him and stood up with the sheet twisted modestly around her. "I can't figure out what's going on here. I need time to think. I told you that."
"Save your thinking for tomorrow, sweetheart," he tried persuasively.
She smiled grimly in the shadows. "That's a typically male piece of advice. I think I've already done enough tonight without thinking about it first. I need some time to myself. Good night, Jonas."
"Fifteen minutes ago, you were begging me to make love to you again," he reminded her bluntly.
"That was fifteen minutes ago. I've changed my mind. It's a woman's right. I want you to leave, Jonas."
"Verity, this is crazy. You can't kick me out now."
She tilted her head curiously. Verity ran her own life. She was not accustomed to the notion that she could not run it the way she wished. "Why not?"
He shot to his feet, running a hand through his hair in exasperation. "Why not? Dammit, nothing has changed. You want me and I want you. We've already made love once. There's no reason we shouldn't spend the night together." He was rock hard and ready for her. More than anything else on the face of the earth he wanted to lay her down and sheath himself in her again.
But she was busy throwing him out.
"Good night, Jonas." She walked to the door and opened it. The sheet trailed behind her like a royal train. Once again it occurred to him that when she was at her most haughty, Verity reminded him vaguely of someone else.
"Dammit, Verity..." But it was useless to argue with her. He could see that now. Reluctantly he yanked on his pants, aware that he had lost this round. As he picked up his shirt the earring tinkled again. He reached down and scooped it up off the Moor and dropped it into his pocket. "This is stupid." He tried one last, weak excuse: "It's not fair to make me face your father alone. He's going to have a good idea of what happened here tonight. What am I supposed to say to him?"
Verity smiled her first real smile since she had found the earring. It was a smile of glittering secret amusement. "My father will be thrilled. He's been worrying for the past five years that I'm g*y."
Jonas discovered he was on the edge of losing his temper all over again. The little tyrant was baiting him now. "He's a father. Somehow, I'm not so sure he'll be all that delighted to know I've just screwed his precious virgin daughter."
"Ex-virgin," she stated proudly, as if taking personal credit for the transformation.
What remained of Jonas's temper went up in smoke. As usual when he got very angry, his voice got very quiet. He showed his adversary a lot of teeth in a savage smile. "Ex-virgin is right," he said. "Thanks to me. Remember that, lady. You didn't manage your new status all by yourself. You needed me to do the job. Having done it very thoroughly, I intend to claim a reward. I deserve it."
He stalked to the door and out into the night before Verity could respond to the harsh words. The door was slammed shut behind him with enough force to echo through the trees.
His red-haired tyrant was angry.
Well, so was he, Jonas thought vengefully. Things had started out smoothly enough this evening, but they had wound up disastrously. The fact that he had no one to blame but himself did not alleviate his mood one bit.
The lights were off in the cabin when he reached it. He opened the door and saw the dark shape on the bed. So much for flipping a coin to see who got the sleeping bag. Possession was nine-tenths of the law.
There was no sound from Emerson Ames. Jonas was grateful. He didn't feel like making explanations for his prolonged absence. Emerson was no fool.
Jonas unrolled the old, musty-smelling sleeping bag he had found in a closet and stripped off his clothes.
He was sliding into the bag when Emerson's sleepy voice came from the direction of the bed.
"You're back earlier than I expected. What happened? Did my daughter kick you out of bed?"
Jonas swallowed an oath and decided to evade the question. "Your daughter reminds me of someone, Emerson."
"Yeah, I know. I've often thought the same thing."
"Yeah?" Jonas was intrigued in spite of himself. The elusive comparison had been haunting him for some time.
"Sure. I finally figured it out a few years ago. Think about it. It'll come to you. Small, red-haired, sharp-tongued, acts like she's royalty, especially around men. Smart as a whip and just as dangerous. Picture her in a white lace ruff."