"Seen enough?" Jonas asked as he restarted the car. "We can always go back to town and phone her to say we can't make it today."
"Don't be ridiculous. I'm looking forward to visiting Caitlin."
"I don't know what you see in the woman." Jonas glanced over his shoulder to check traffic, then swung the wheel of the car. "She gives me the creeps."
"I'll tell you what I see in her," Verity said quietly. "I see a strong, lonely woman in need of friendship. Why shouldn't I be her friend? After all, Caitlin and I have a few things in common."
"You what? " The car whipped around a curve in an arc that was a little too tight. Jonas corrected the maneuver with a disgusted oath. "Are you out of your tiny little mind? You've got nothing in common with Caitlin Evanger. Nothing at all."
Verity leaned back into her corner. "I'm not so sure. Oh, I'll admit I don't have her artistic talent. My skills are a lot more mundane. But there is something about her and the way she lives that has a familiar feel to it. Have you ever had a glimpse of the future and discovered that it looked familiar?"
"No." The single word was clipped as Jonas concentrated on the narrow road. "Only the past."
Verity wrinkled her nose in a question. "What do you mean by that?"
Jonas stifled a soft curse. "Nothing much. Just that I guess it's possible to say the past has a familiar feel.
After all, it exists. Has existed. It has tentacles that reach into the present. We're all victims of it. But it makes no sense to say the same about the future."
"I think it does. I look at Caitlin and I see the woman I may be in another couple of years. Minus the artistic genius, of course. She has carved out a space for herself and she occupies it completely. She's strong. I know she employs Tavi to handle the day-to-day problems of life, but you always have a sense that Caitlin would do just fine without Tavi if it was necessary."
"Verity, Evanger is one cold fish. Trust me. A man knows that kind of woman when he sees one."
Verity shrugged. "You see that because she makes it clear she has no need for a man. What's wrong with that? It gives her a kind of freedom that many women will never know. She's not dependent on a man for anything, least of all her own happiness. She takes care of herself and finds satisfaction in doing so. I should think you would admire a woman like Caitlin. She's the kind of woman who would never make demands on a man. She would never try to tie him down or turn him into something he's not. In short, the perfect female."
"Don't put words in my mouth, Verity. It's obvious you've got a bad case of hero-worship, but don't try to drag me into the congregation."
"It's not a question of hero-worship. I like her. I think she needs friends and I have no objection to being her friend. That's all there is to it." Verity smiled wryly and stared out the window. "Maybe we'd better change the subject."
"Maybe we'd better, since you're not making much sense."
"Jonas, I'm warning you, if you don't behave yourself I'm going to fire you on the spot."
"Yes, your majesty."
She opted not to respond to that piece of provocation. Jonas had been in an unreadable mood ever since he had told her he had decided to give her time.
It was very thoughtful of him, Verity had decided. The . problem was, she was coming to the conclusion that she didn't really want any more time. With a man such as Jonas, a woman had to accept the fact that she wouldn't have him around for long. It was beginning to occur to Verity that it was a shame to waste what time she did have with him. Like her father, he would take off one of these days. And it was, after all, her father who had taught her to enjoy what life offered when it was offered because there were never any guarantees.
She developed a queasy feeling in the pit of her stomach every time she thought of how much Jonas and Emerson had in common. Several times a day she told herself it was better if the brief affair she had begun with Jonas was nipped in the bud. The last thing she needed in her life was a relationship with a man who shared none of her own values.
On the other hand, given her advancing age and future prospects, surely she had a right to at least one interesting sexual fling, she decided wryly.
"Well, here we are," Jonas announced as he parked the car in a wide, graveled drive. "I don't see anyone rushing out to greet us. Maybe no one's home."
"Don't sound so hopeful." Verity opened her door and got out. The wind off the sea whipped her hair into an instant tangle. The jeans and plaid shirt she had put on that morning in Sequence Springs were not proof against the crisp, snapping breeze, so she reached into the backseat for the bright yellow windbreaker she had brought along.
As she fastened her jacket, the door slammed on the other side of the car. Jonas stood, one arm resting casually on the roof of the car while he eyed the forbidding structure in front of him.
"One half-expects someone named Igor to open the door," he said dryly.
Before Verity could respond, Tavi Monahan opened the wide, gray door. She stood at the top of the concrete steps leading up to the house and looked at them with an unreadable expression.
"Caitlin will be pleased to know you're here," Tavi said very quietly. Tavi herself looked a little less than pleased. Verity thought there was a sense of anxiety beneath that serene, elegant facade.
"I'm glad somebody is pleased," Jonas muttered as he pulled his duffel bag and Verity's small suitcase from the backseat.
Once again, Verity decided to pretend she hadn't overheard the crack. Sometimes the only thing a woman could do with someone like Jonas was ignore him.
They followed Tavi down a hallway paved in gray and black stone. Everything in the house seemed to have been finished in gray and black. Verity silently decided that Jonas was right. Some designer had gotten a little carried away with the theme of concrete and steel. The unusual windows at the front of the house that had looked so much like insect eyes from a distance allowed light in on three levels.
Caitlin's home was large and as untraditional inside as it was out. The floor plan of the three-story home did not seem to follow any familiar pattern. A steel-banistered staircase connected the various levels, but the rooms Verity saw as she followed Tavi to the top floor seemed strangely shaped. Walls curved and assumed odd angles.
There was a second, narrower staircase that connected the levels from some point at the rear of the house.
Tavi opened a door in the center of a long, battleship-gray corridor and revealed a granite-colored room that had a wall of angled glass on the ocean side. A huge four-poster bed dominated the room, but it was unlike any four-poster Verity had ever seen before. Instead of being fashioned from heavy oak or mahogany, it was metal. The four posts were stark, monolithic pillars pushing toward the ceiling. A gray and black quilt covered the bed.