Verity smiled enthusiastically. "That's very kind of you, Caitlin." She rounded on Jonas. "Isn't it? Do you want to come with me on Monday?"

Jonas sorted through his limited set of options and then met Caitlin Evanger's eyes. "Sure," he said coolly. "Why not?"

* * *

Much later that night Tavi sat on the edge of Caitlin Evanger's bed, massaging her employer's ruined leg with firm, tender hands.

"So it worked," Tavi observed with a sigh.

"I told you it would." Caitlin adjusted herself on the pillows and sipped the glass of brandy she routinely used to help put herself to sleep. "I knew Quarrel would never allow Verity to visit me by herself. Not if there was an alternative. He doesn't like me and he likes even less the fact that Verity and I are on friendly terms. But he knew tonight that he couldn't stop her from spending the night at my home. He chose the only alternative he had."

"The only alternative you offered," Tavi clarified, her fingers working deeply into the atrophied muscles.

"I've told you, Tavi, that as soon as I saw the way he looked at Verity, I knew she was the key to manipulating him. The plan I've been putting together is almost complete."

"Now you'll have a chance to test him with the rapier."

"I have to be certain. I have to know for sure that he still has the talent and that he can be made to use it when the time comes." Caitlin shifted again on the pillows. "That's enough massage for tonight."

Tavi halted and looked at Caitlin in surprise. "You said your leg was hurting badly this evening."

"It is. But the pain is good, Tavi." Caitlin smiled her humorless smile. "Don't you see? I use it to keep my attention trained on what I'm going to do. There is nothing like pain to focus one's mind. Planning an execution takes a certain amount of fortitude, I've discovered."

Chapter Eight

THE nearest signs of human habitation were several miles away as Verity and Jonas drove through the tiny village indicated on Tavi's map. They glided past a small general store and gas station, a post office, and a handful of gray, weathered cottages. A scattering of unprosperous-looking fishing boats sat huddled in the microscopic harbor waiting for a tide that never seemed to arrive.

Verity, who had been in a relentlessly cheerful mood since she and Jonas had set out from Sequence Springs, found the village charmingly picturesque.

"I should have brought my camera," she exclaimed, enchanted by the fishing boats. "Isn't that a lovely scene?"

Jonas was distinctly unimpressed. "The whole place looks like it's ready for the morgue."

Verity's good mood slipped. She had been tolerating his brusque, unenthusiastic comments most of the way from Sequence Springs, but enough was enough. "I don't know why you bothered to come along,"

she snapped. "It's obvious you aren't enjoying yourself."

He took his steady gaze off the narrow, curving road long enough to give her a direct look. "I didn't come along with the intention of enjoying myself."

"Then why did you insist on coming along?"

"I didn't have much choice. I couldn't talk you out of it, remember?"

"I remember," Verity muttered, "but that doesn't explain why you felt you had to come with me."

"I didn't want you making the trip alone." His voice was vaguely defensive.

"I've got news for you, Jonas," Verity assured him in growing exasperation, "I'm a big girl and I've been traveling all by myself for ages."

"I've already had a sample of the kind of trouble you get into when you're traveling by yourself. I saw you in action down in Mexico, remember?"

Verity was about to tell him what she thought of his lousy logic but something stopped her. "Jonas," she finally said more gently, "why did you feel you had to accompany me today? The real reason."

He startled her with the blunt honesty of his response. "I don't know. Something to do with Caitlin Evanger. The woman gives me the chills. I didn't want you driving over here and staying with her alone.

End of subject. Find another topic of conversation."

Jonas had made it clear several times during the weekend that he wasn't looking forward to visiting Caitlin Evanger, which had only reinforced Verity's determination to make the trip. She had fully expected that at the last minute he would tell her to go by herself. But he hadn't.

On Monday morning, Jonas had resignedly thrown a few things into his duffel bag, tossed the bag into Verity's car, and then climbed into the front seat and held out his hands for the keys.

Verity had toyed with the idea of telling him to stay behind and go fishing with her father. But in the end, eager to be on her way, she'd handed him the keys.

Now, as they drove the winding road that led to Caitlin's house, she wondered if she had made a wise decision. Jonas showed every sign of putting a real damper on the occasion.

But what really bothered her was his illogical insistence on accompanying her. He couldn't explain it even to his own satisfaction, let alone to hers.

Ghosts, Verity thought suddenly. Jonas was having problems with his private ghosts again. She wondered what she had to do with those ghosts.

Then they saw the house. It was huge, dour, and astonishingly ugly, clinging like a large, faceted-eyed insect to the edge of the cliff, defying the frothing white sea that surged relentlessly below. It wasn't until one got close to it that it became clear the insect-eye effect was created by the oddly designed windows that bulged outward.

"That house looks like some do-it-yourselfer went crazy with a bunch of concrete and steel left over from some other do-it-yourself project that failed," Jonas commented. He halted Verity's compact at the side of the road for a better look.

"I think it's an example of some architect's idea of modern art," Verity suggested. "It's not quite what I expected. It doesn't look like the sort of place that would appeal to Cait-lin."

"Oh, I don't know," Jonas said laconically. "I think it suits her just fine. All that concrete and steel compliments her personality perfectly, if you want my opinion."

"When I want your opinion, I'll ask for it." Verity surveyed the gloomy, windswept scene. The day had been warm and bright back in Sequence Springs, but here along the ocean the sky was overcast. The sea looked like hammered gray metal stretching out to the horizon. A glance over the edge of the cliffs revealed that it was a long way down to the water.

Definitely not a California surfing beach, Verity thought. Anyone foolish enough to try riding those waves would find himself beaten to a pulp against the rocks at the base of the cliffs. The dark, wild setting represented the flip side of the state's brilliant sun-and-sand image.

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