"I know. Don't worry about it. I'm the main contact."
"What's it like for you?" she asked in hushed tones.
Jonas concentrated, enjoying for the first time the glorious sensation of really being in control or what he was facing. This wasn't a firefight, for once. He didn't have to battle these twisting, writhing things; he could handle them. This time he was the dominant force in the corridor.
Slowly he reached out with his free hand and touched one of the tendrils, a golden streamer that pulsed invitingly. The moment he made deliberate contact with it, it freed itself from the tangle surrounding it and leaped to coil around his arm.
Adrenaline pumped through Jonas's veins. And then a new sense of awareness. It was someone else's sense of awareness, not his own. He was standing on a grassy field at dawn, dressed in polished Hessian boots and pale fawn trousers. He was in his shirtsleeves. A manservant standing near the carriage held
his green frock coat and black felt hat. There was a pistol in Jonas's fist. The same pistol he was holding in the cabin.
A short distance away another man, similarly attired, held the mate to the weapon Jonas had. Both men were waiting for a signal from the man who stood between them. Somewhere in the distance a horse stamped and blew in the cold dawn air. Harness metal rattled. A few men stood at the side, observing.
One of them was Jonas's second, the man who had made the formal arrangements for this morning's confrontation.
Jonas was aware of fear but it was held at bay by the surge of cold anger and adrenaline pumping through him. His only goal this morning was to draw blood from the man who had insulted Amanda.
He would teach the bastard a lesson.
The signal came. Jonas lifted his pistol in a smooth, sure motion. But even as he did so, he knew somehow that the action wasn't his. He was still an observer. His opponent's hand also swept upward.
But Jonas was already tightening his finger on the trigger of the heavy pistol, confident of the gun's sure aim.
Then, without any warning, Verity screamed and yanked at his arm. For an instant all the images blurred.
Jonas was both the man on the grassy field and the observer in the corridor. Furious at the distraction, Jonas tried to jerk free of Verity's compelling grip. But she clung to him, yelling at him.
"Stop it! Do you hear me? Stop it this instant. I won't have this foolishness carried any further." She grabbed the golden ribbon and pulled it free. It slithered back into the tangle at her feet.
Jonas blinked at the upper-class English accent. His eyes widened.
"No, I'm not Amanda. I'm Verity. Come with me. We're getting out of here."
He turned back, seeing the images of the dawn-lit scene already fading rapidly.
Disoriented, Jonas whirled to face Verity. She was pulling at his arm and shouting commands.
"I said come with me, dammit." The English accent was gone. The voice was once again Verity's.
"We're getting out of here."
"Honey, it's okay." Jonas tried to soothe her but she was already tugging him back down the corridor.
"Everything's under control. It's all right. Just calm down, Verity. I want to do some exploring."
"How do we get out of this corridor?" she demanded.
Jonas became aware of the pistol in his hand. He opened his fingers and dropped it.
The corridor vanished at once. Jonas was again facing Verity across the small table.
It didn't surprise him to realize that he was sexually aroused. Having experienced the same after-effects on the previous two occasions when he had encountered Verity in the corridor, he was expecting it. The only difference this time was that the desire to pull Verity down onto the nearest bed, strip her, and bury himself in her was stronger than ever. Sweat trickled down the side of his face.
"Well," Emerson said, looking from one taut face to the other, "how was the minivacation?"
"We almost lost our traveler's checks," Verity said in a grim voice.
JONAS could feel the tension radiating from Verity as he walked back with her to her cottage. It had a heightening effect on his already simmering desire. But he was determined to control himself tonight.
Verity had had a traumatic experience this evening. The decent thing to do was to give her time to adjust. She was bound to want to talk it all out.
He told himself that if he was a gentleman he wouldn't try to push her into bed tonight the way he had the last two times. He ought to show some respect for the effects of the experience on her. Tonight was a night to be spent soothing, gentling, and reassuring her. Jonas was determined to be gallant even if it took every ounce of willpower he possessed.
There was no doubt that Verity needed some soothing. He could almost see her nerve endings glowing in the dark. He wasn't sure he could explain to her just why it was so important to him that he start testing himself, start seeing how far his talent could stretch. He wasn't even certain he could explain it to himself. But he knew a strong sense of urgency, one he had felt ever since that morning when he awakened in Caitlin Evanger's ugly house.
"Poor tyrant," he said softly. "It really got to you, didn't it?"
"Of course it got to me. What did you expect?" she snapped.
He winced. "Not quite what happened, I'll admit."
"What does that mean?" She peered up at him in the darkness.
Jonas paused, searching for words. "Verity, when I found your earring in that alley I knew there was something special about you. I knew you were more than a woman I wanted to take to bed. But I can't really describe what I felt when I touched that earring. Just a sense of certainty. A sense that you were somehow important to me. I knew I had to find you and discover what it meant. I had never had that feeling about anyone else in my life."
"In other words you fell for my brain, not my body?"
He squeezed her hand a bit too tightly in retaliation. "Spare me the sarcasm tonight. I'm trying to explain things to you. At any rate, when I found you again, nothing really became any clearer until the night I tried picking up the pistol with you standing next to rne. I hadn't stepped into that corridor for years but I recognized it instantly. I also realized something else. All of a sudden I wasn't alone in that tunnel in my mind. You were there. It was the first time I had ever had anyone else with me."
"Not even when you were testing your ability at Vincent?"
He shook his head. "No. Until I met you I had no idea it was even possible to take anyone with me into that corridor. I had always found myself alone in there, and believe me, that damn tunnel has got to be the loneliest place in space or time."