"Yes, sir." Hatch nodded to Kincaid's back in the same formal, polite way he would have nodded if Kincaid had been facing him. Habits were habits, and the ones Hatch had cultivated had kept him employed for quite a while.

Chapter Thirteen

ON the following Monday morning Verity stood on the busy San Francisco sidewalk and examined the entrance to the tower of glass soaring into the sky above her. "You'd think that in a state that had a definite earthquake problem there would be laws against building big glass buildings."

"Since when has California worried much about earthquakes? Only tourists worry about quakes." Jonas adjusted the package under his arm and gave Verity a gentle push toward the revolving door. "Come on.

Let's see if this Kin-caid guy is going to get the privilege of delivering your poor old father from the clutches of a loan shark."

"And after we take care of Dad's business we get to shop for the gown I'm going to wear to Caitlin's party," Verity reminded him firmly.

"Hey, lay off. I've already surrendered on that count, remember? I've accepted the fact that I can't talk you out of that dumb Renaissance ball and I've promised we'll hit the costume shops for a gown today. What more do you want from me?"

Verity smiled sunnily. "Gracious, was I whining?"

"You never whine, Verity. You just nag." Jonas came to a halt in front of a bank of black and gold elevators and scanned the list of businesses housed in the glass tower. "Here we go. Top floor. The man must be doing all right, just like his representative implied."

"Maybe we should have brought Dad along," Verity said. "This is his deal, after all."

"Take my word for it. The person with the item for sale is the last one who should handle the negotiations.

Your father knows that. That's why he turned the whole thing over to me. Now stop displaying your appalling lack of faith in my business abilities and get ready to smile sweetly."

"Sweetly?" Verity practiced a sugary smile. "What's my role in all this supposed to be?"

Jonas gave her an arrogant grin full of male challenge in response to the saccharine one she was bestowing on him. "You, my dear, have nothing more to do than play my fluff-brained but sexy redheaded girlfriend who insisted on coming with me today. All you have to do is remember to smile frequently."

"What a thrill." Verity stepped into the elevator.

"Believe me, when this Kincaid character sees that smile, it'll be a case of instant trust. He'll know we're not trying to pull anything shady with the pistols. One look at you and he'd never believe you could be associated with anything underhanded or sneaky."

"Do you always date fluff-brained, sexy redheads with sincere smiles?"

"You're my first," he assured her as the elevator door closed. "Definitely one of a kind."

"It's nice to be appreciated."

They stood in silence as the elevator rose. Verity stole a glance at herself in the mirrored wall. She was wearing her one good suit, a striking black and white number with a full jacket and a very narrow skirt.

She hadn't worn high heels in ages and the black pumps were already beginning to pinch. Jonas was wearing a five-year-old jacket and slacks he had been packing around for no apparent reason.

"Actually," Verity said, studying the dark suit that fitted his lean figure quite well, "that outfit doesn't look five years out-of-date. Fortunately for you, men's styles don't change too much."

Jonas fingered a lapel and glanced down. "Believe it or not, I occasionally find a use for this suit.

Sooner or later a man needs something to wear to a funeral."

"Or a wedding," Verity retorted.

Jonas gave her a mild look. "I haven't attended a single wedding in the past five years."

"A cheerful thought." Verity lapsed back into silence, practicing her fluff-brained pose. The banter with Jonas was typical of the way they had been communicating for the past few days. There was a wary, sparring quality to their relationship that disappeared only when they were locked in the mortal combat of passion or the equally compelling forces generated inside the time corridor.

She had made two more trips into that corridor with him since the first one. Jonas had been eager to use the pistols as a catalyst. Too eager, as far as Verity was concerned. She stili did not understand what happened to her when she accompanied him and she wasn't certain she wanted to understand. Jonas had kept both trips short, but there was no doubt that he was very determined to explore the control he now had over his talent. In fact, he seemed driven to explore that control. That worried Verity.

The passion in their relationship was growing more powerful, too. Ever since the night Jonas had run his first so-called test, he had made it abundantly clear that he did not need a jaunt into the psychic corridor to get an erection.

Verity winced, thinking about the way she had spent the past few nights. She supposed she had unintentionally challenged him, and now Jonas was out to prove he could be insatiable with little or no provocation.

He was certainly doing a good job of it. Verity sometimes wondered how much longer she would hold up under his relentless demands. But she always found herself responding, even when he roused her from a sound sleep as he had at three this morning. She had awakened curled on her side, her hips nestled into his warmth, and discovered that he was sliding into her already moist channel from the rear. Her small protest had been replaced by a gasp of excitement as her body quickly responded to his.

Jonas had chuckled deeply, the sound replete with satisfaction as he felt her immediate reaction. One thing was for certain, she was managing to keep his ego stroked and well fed.

Afterward he had left. He always left around three in the morning to return to the cabin he shared with her father. Verity never asked him to stay. She wasn't quite certain why, but she had a hunch it probably had something to do with the fundamental uncertainty surrounding their relationship. Not letting Jonas spend the whole night with her was a way of keeping him at a slight distance emotionally.

They had not discussed the future of their relationship. Things continued normally at the restaurant and Emerson watched with a benign eye as Jonas openly staked a man's claim on Verity. The older man never even commented on the fact that Jonas routinely returned to the smaller cottage around three in the morning. He seemed to accept that his daughter had taken a lover.

Verity supposed her father figured that at her age it was much too late to get out a shotgun.

The elevator doors opened onto a sophisticated lobby occupied by a sleek-looking dark-haired receptionist and several pieces of expensive furniture of contemporary Italian design.

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