Jonas didn't like the room, the house, or the whole situation. Its sense of wrongness was stronger than ever. Everything about Caitlin Evanger set off his internal alarm signals. He only wished he could make Verity understand his feelings, but she was hell-bent on being Caitlin's friend. He stared out into the darkness and wondered again how much that woman knew about his past.

The damn room was really getting to him. It didn't take any great intuition to guess the immediate source of his problem tonight. Jonas had known what the trouble was right from the start. It was that rapier hanging on the wall. The thing was packed with resonance. He had been trying to ignore the weapon for the past hour.

At the window, he focused his thoughts on himself. He had put off his future long enough. Now that he had found Verity he knew he was on the brink of coming to terms with that future as well as with his past.

The storm that had been gathering out at sea all afternoon had just struck an hour ago and was now in full regalia. Rain hammered the bulbous windows and the wind screamed as it lashed the cliffs. Jonas thought fleetingly about Caitlin's story of the death of the house's previous owner. Then he wondered if Verity was lying awake in bed listening to the storm and thinking about Sandquist's ghost.

There were times when she would look at Jonas in a certain way that gave him the eerie feeling that she saw more than he intended her to see.

His mind leaped from that disquieting thought to the memory of the night he had made love to her. He had been so desperate for her after handling the dueling pistol. After chasing her down the endless corridor in his mind, he had been unable to resist catching her for real and pinning her safely beneath him.

His body tightened with the tension of gathering desire as he tormented himself with the recollection of what it was like to make love to Verity. He had lost himself in her softness that night. He wanted nothing more than to lose himself that way again. It was taking all his self-control these days to live up to his promise to take things slowly. He could still feel the sweet pressure of her legs and the sharp edges of her nails as she clung to him. She had been so tight and hot and sweetly, innocently sensual.

Jonas still marveled that she had waited all these years to experience the mysteries of passion. Then he grimaced wryly at the memory of his haste and clumsiness. In one very important way, he acknowledged, Verity was still waiting to experience the mysteries of passion. She had not found the ultimate satisfaction in his arms that first time and had kicked him out of bed before he could give it a second try.

They had been dancing around each other ever since; a frustrating, precariously balanced pattern of advance and retreat that was bound to explode sooner or later. Jonas hoped it would be sooner. His body ached to possess again the fire in Verity.

He turned away from the window, grimly aware of his aroused state. Just the thought of Verity lying naked in his arms was enough to put him in this condition. It was ludicrous. At his age he should have a hell of a lot more self-control. Maybe a cold shower would help.

At least the dull ache of desire had one positive side effect, he reflected as he walked past the shadowed rapier: it helped take his mind off the weapon. He stepped into the stainless steel bathroom and flipped on the light.

The cold-water treatment would be excruciating but probably fairly effective. It should help him gain some control over his rampaging hormones. At this rate Verity was going to drive him crazy. The little tyrant probably didn't even realize what she was doing to him. He wondered how much more time he could afford to give her before he lost his sanity.

He had his hands on the buttons of his jeans, and was wishing they were on the fastenings of Verity's pants, when he became dizzyingly aware of the rapier.

For an instant a series of violent emotions flitted through his brain. Fury, lust, fear.

No doubt about it, the pull of the thing was getting stronger. The remnants of the past that still clung to the steel of the rapier were powerful. Too powerful. He knew he had better stop trying to fight them.

Jonas stalked across the room to examine the weapon. Proximity was a factor, he knew. The closer he was to an object carrying the residue of old violence, the more he was affected by it. It would help if he got the rapier out of the room. He decided to store it in a closet overnight.

He went to the wall, aware of the increasing level of his awareness as he approached the old metal. No doubt about it, the thing was genuine. He was willing to bet the steel had been forged in Milan. No reproduction would be screaming silently at him the way this thing was. It was from the era to which he was most psychically vulnerable.

Jonas reached up and tentatively took hold of the edges of the plaque. He didn't dare touch the rapier itself. It was generating too much emotional energy.

He lifted the plaque from the wall and started toward the closet, thinking that if Verity saw him now she would be certain he was crazy. A part of Jonas secretly wondered if he really was crazy.

He was halfway across the room when he realized he'd made a terrible miscalculation. He was in big trouble.

His fingers were well clear of the steel, but Jonas reeled under a wave of powerful emotions that had been generated four hundred years in the past. He was suddenly in the endless corridor. It was already coalescing around him and he knew that the spectral tentacles of old feelings would be waiting. And they would find him soon, seeking with a rampaging hunger. Instinctively he fought the compulsion to fling himself heedlessly down the psychic tunnel. That way lay madness. He had always known that. There was no way to outrun the snakelike ribbons of old hate and lust and vengeance.

Sweat dampened his forehead and trickled down his sides in tiny rivulets. Jonas hung on to the remnants of his consciousness with all his willpower. He staggered and lost his balance, going down on one knee.

He had to get rid of the blade. He had to drop the metal plaque on which the rapier was mounted.

It was so simple. All he had to do was drop the damn thing.

Jonas struggled to relax his grip. But the pull of the rapier was far more violent and compelling than he had expected. Under assault, he sensed with grim shock that it had never been worse than this except that day in the lab when he'd almost killed a man.

Few things he had ever touched had hit him this hard. Tonight he was going to lose himself in the dark corridor. He was going to be overwhelmed by the past. It would either kill him or drive him out of his mind.

He had been a fool to touch the plaque. He should have guessed how powerful the rapier on it was.

But it had been so long since he had experimented with an object from his prime time period that he had almost forgotten how strong the past could be. Perhaps he had grown overconfident because of his experience with the dueling pistols the other night.

Tags: Jayne Ann Krentz Gift Suspense