"Well, it does appear that way, doesn't it? Be honest, Jonas. You've admitted that the only reason you followed me out of Mexico was because of my connection to your talent. You wouldn't have hunted me down if you thought the only thing you'd missed that night was a good lay."
"I ought to take a belt to your sweet ass, lady. Talk about jumping to conclusions." Jonas was infuriated by the fact that part of what she said was absolutely true. He had come after her because of the mystery.
And he had made love to her only on the occasions when he'd made a trip into the corridor.
"Don't yell at me, Jonas. I'm just stating facts." She smiled wistfully and touched his cheek. "I don't want to argue. Not tonight. I'm much too glad to have you here safe. Let's forget about the facts and all the reasons we got together and just enjoy being together. You'll go away one of these days and I want to be able to say I took full advantage of my first love affair. After all, given the statistics, I may never have another one."
Anger mixed with a sudden flare of guilt. "Why do you say I'll go away?"
"Men like you always move on. You're like Dad. You don't really want responsibility or long-term commitment. Don't worry. I knew that going into this affair. I had my eyes wide open. Besides, I'm not looking for marriage anyway. I've told.you that, so relax. I'm planning on growing into a bossy, independent, tyrannical old lady. A real shrew. But at least I won't be an old maid."
"Verity, this is getting all mixed up. I don't think I like being written off as useless in the long run. And I don't like your assumption that I'm staying here only because of your ability to anchor me when I go into that corridor. Maybe I did follow you initially because of the mystery surrounding you, but there are other factors involved now. This isn't a simple situation for either of us. Don't try to make it simple by pigeonholing me or our relationship. And don't get the idea you can use me as a stud for a while and then discard me when it suits you."
"I don't want to argue. Not tonight, Jonas." Verity slid her leg between his knees. Her skin was creamy smooth against his tough, hairy flesh. Her fingertips drew a small pattern on his thigh. Jonas groaned and swore softly as his body reacted instantly. "Show me you want me now," she whispered. "Prove to me you don't have to make another trip into that corridor to work up a desire for me."
Jonas leaned over her, trapping her teasing legs with his own. He was already hard again. He tested himself against her thigh, letting her know that he was more than ready.
"I already knew you were hell to work for," he muttered against her mouth. "Now it looks like you're going to be equally demanding in bed. Lucky for you I'm so easygoing, good-natured, and willing to please."
"I've always heard opposites attract."
* * *
Kincaid looked up impatiently as Hatch walked into the elegantly bare office.
"Well?" Kincaid asked.
"I've got the initial background report on both Ames and Quarrel. Ames is not particularly interesting.
Nothing more than what she seems, a woman running a little cafe in a small town. But Quarrel is a bit more unusual. He's got a Ph.D. in history and until five years ago he had a reputation as a consultant for museums and collectors."
Kincaid frowned. "What kind of consultant?"
"He was frequently asked to verify the authenticity of certain items being considered for purchase. Seems he had what some people call the 'touch.' He was never proved wrong. But five years ago he walked away from his teaching job and his consulting work and started drifting. He's held odd jobs every place from Tahiti to Mexico. Now he's washing dishes and waiting tables for Ames."
Kincaid sat silently for a moment, letting the information sink in. "A dishwasher with a background in museum consulting who has somehow gotten himself invited to Caitlin Evanger's home. Very interesting."
"The investigator made some inquiries at the spa near the restaurant. Ames is good friends with the owners. The investigator got the impression that Evanger is Ames's friend and that it was she who got the invitation to visit. Apparently Ames just decided to take Quarrel along for the ride." Hatch shrugged. "The report says it's almost certain he's her lover."
"Were Ames and Evanger friends before Quarrel appeared on the scene?"
Hatch glanced hurriedly through the report. "No, sir. Doesn't look that way."
"Quite a coincidence that a reclusive artist who has few known social contacts suddenly becomes close friends with a little cafe operator who just happens to have a lover who's got a background in consulting for museums and collectors."
"There's more, sir."
"Finish it." Kincaid swung around to face the view from his window.
Hatch cleared his throat. "It seems that Jonas Quarrel has let it be known in certain circles that he is acting as an agent for an unidentified party who wishes to sell a very valuable set of antique dueling pistols."
Kincaid steepled his hands. "Has he contacted any museums?"
"No. The investigation report says it's all being handled on the quiet. This is to be a very private sale."
Kincaid considered. "I want to talk to this Jonas Quarrel myself. I need an opportunity to size him up.
He may be perfectly harmless. But we have to consider the fact that he is close to Evanger, who has a history of not letting anyone from the art world get close to her. We must also consider the possibility that he is somehow involved in the sale of Bloodlust."
Hatch frowned. "How?"
Kincaid shrugged. "I don't know. The most likely scenario is that he's representing an interested bidder who prefers to remain anonymous. If so, that bidder, whoever he is, obviously has special status—otherwise his agent, Quarrel, would not be paying private visits to a woman who never invites people to her home. I want to know what I'm facing. I can deal with financial competition, but if there's something more involved, I need to know about it in advance. I'll be able to tell a great deal about Quarrel if I can meet him. I might be able to figure out where he fits in to the picture."
"I understand," Hatch said calmly. He did not like Kincaid, but could not doubt the man's ability to assess the motives and weaknesses of others. That skill was one of the many that had brought Kincaid this far. "What do you want me to do?"
"Let's try the easy way first. Advise him discreetly that you've heard rumors of the availability of the pistols and that you represent a collector who's interested in them. Let him know that money is no object and that your collector certainly won't ask any awkward questions concerning the provenance of the pistols. See if he takes the bait. If he does, invite him to see me here in my office."