"I find it very reassuring to know we're highly unlikely to ever run into Damon Kincaid again. The truth is, I'm glad you live here at Sequence Springs, where the population of available males is, according to your friend Laura, as limited as hen's teeth."
Verity shook her head in amazement. "Well, I'll be darned. Damon Kincaid. Who would have thought... ?"
"Don't get any ideas," Jonas interrupted dryly. "I can see I should have kept my mouth shut. Now I suppose your female ego will be inflated to triple its normal large size. I should have known better than to do anything to stroke it."
Verity smiled brilliantly and nuzzled close to Jonas. "Actually, there are other portions of my anatomy that I wouldn't mind having stroked."
Jonas smiled slowly, a sexy grin. "Is that right? You must tell me exactly where, my sweet, in great detail."
Verity forced back a blush. She still wasn't accustomed to all the freewheeling, sensual nuances of Jonas's lovemaking. "You already know where," she said, her lips against his chest.
His arm closed around her and he lifted her onto his thighs. "I want the words, honey. I love it when you talk dirty."
"You love it," he said confidently.
Not only that, Verity thought wistfully, I think I love you, too. What am I going to do when you leave, Jonas? But she didn't say those words. Instead, when she felt his hand part her legs under the water, she gave him the words he wanted to hear. Words that begged, promised, cajoled, and pleaded. Jonas drank them from her lips while his hand moved in precise response to her every command.
When she tried to wriggle around so that he could enter her, Jonas held her still.
"Not so fast, love. Verity is the spice of life," he said. "I'm going to show you just how spicy you can be." Then his long fingers moved inside her, probing the narrow, warm passage until she was shuddering in his arms. Her legs tightened around his hand and he laughed softly.
"So hot," he whispered as he leaned down to kiss one nipple that projected above the surface of the water. "Clean, hot, honest fire. Burn for me, baby."
And she did, until she was a trembling, twisting wanton in his arms, a woman who craved the man who could do such things to her. When he thrust his tongue into her mouth and simultaneously thrust two fingers deeply, slowly into her body, Verity cried out. He held her tightly as she convulsed delightfully in his arms.
"Now we'll go back to your cabin and I'll get my turn," he announced, heaving himself up out of the water with Verity cradled against his chest.
She looked down as he set her on her feet and reached for their clothing. His iron-hard manhood appeared ready to explode. Dreamily she put out a hand to cup him with soft fingers.
"I'll never make it back to your place if you keep that up," he warned in a husky voice.
Verity smiled at him and continued to stroke him gently. Jonas took one look at her smile and groaned in surrender.
"I guess we can always go back to the cabin later," he muttered.
He put her down on top of the pile of clothing, parted her legs with hands that trembled with passion, and thrust himself heavily into her warmth. Verity tightened herself around him, drawing him into her until he was lost.
* * *
A long while later Jonas slid out of Verity's bed and pulled on his jeans and boots. He hooked his shirt over one shoulder and turned to take one last look at Verity, who woke up long enough to smile sleepily.
"Good night, Jonas."
"Good night," he muttered and let himself out of her cottage. It was cold outside. He shrugged into the shirt but didn't bother to button it. He would be inside again soon enough.
He remembered what Emerson had said a few nights ago when Jonas had tried to let himself silently into the cabin.
"All that racket. Night after night. Why the hell don't you just move in with her?" Emerson had complained in a muffled voice.
"I haven't received an invitation," Jonas had growled back.
Tonight her small but persistent act of independence bothered him more than ever. He sensed that by sending him away each night she was somehow trying to preserve the fiction that he was only a casual, part-time lover to her, not someone to whom she had committed herself, body and soul.
Jonas walked quickly down the short path through the trees to the other cabin. The stars were almost hidden by the canopy of dark branches overhead. The lake was a black mirror silvered with moonlight.
Jonas saw that Emerson had left on the old, weak porch light. He paced toward the small yellow beacon, his mind on Verity's body and soul. He had to admit that his thoughts were probably weighted more toward her body, which he had thoroughly enjoyed tonight, than they were toward her soul.
She was so incredibly responsive. He'd never felt anything like the way he felt when she tightened her legs around him and pulled him to her.
Jonas was wondering what to do about the erection he was developing when he caught the faint movement out of the corner of his eye.
It was nothing more than a shadow that merged almost immediately with the right-side wall of Emerson's cottage. Too high off the ground to be a stray dog hunting for open garbage cans. Too motionless now to be anything but a man. No tree branch would be so still.
Jonas did not break his stride. The last thing he wanted to do was broadcast the news that he had been warned. The front door would be unlocked—Emerson would have left it open for him—but Jonas could hardly approach it now.
He kept moving toward the cottage but then suddenly veered to the left, using the trees as shelter. The back of the cottage, where the window with the broken lock was, would be shrouded in darkness, unlike the front door, which was lit with the pale glow of the porch light. As he moved, Jonas kept every available object between him and the shadow.
He walked behind Emerson's rented Buick, stayed to the left of his own Jeep, and put a few richly branched trees between himself and the cottage.
Jonas made it to the shelter of the left side of the cottage and halted. If the intruder was simply a vagrant who had been nosing around, he would probably choose this moment to flee into the trees, unseen.
However, if he had more interesting intentions, he might wait until Jonas was in the cottage before making his move.
Jonas found the open window and raised it quickly. It squeaked with protest. The sound echoed loudly in the night. Emerson stirred on the bed as Jonas swung one leg over the sill.
"Coming through the window is a good way to get your throat slit. Ask me, I know."
"Emerson," Jonas whispered, "I think we've got company outside."