Jonas was about to turn on his side and pull Verity closer when he became aware of his parched mouth.

Too much vodka. He reluctantly got out of bed without disturbing his sleeping partner and padded into the kitchen to get a drink of water.

On his way back to the bedroom he wondered once more why Yarington would have sent someone to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs. It didn't make any sense.

In spite of the discussion he'd had earlier with Emerson, Jonas was still not convinced that the gunman had burst into the cabin intending only to terrorize his victim. The .357 had been aimed and was about to be fired before the man realized there was someone else in the room. Not the actions of a professional knee-crusher.

Jonas put the disturbing thought aside for later consideration as he slid back into bed. He reached for Verity, easing her into the curve of his body until her soft, rounded bu**ocks were cradled against his thighs. He intended to wallow in the luxury of being able to cuddle all night with her. After spending the entire day enduring her displeasure, it was a blessed relief to be able to hold her like this. She was sound asleep, but that didn't matter. He'd been listening to her give orders all day long. There were occasions when silence was golden around Verity. This was one of them.

He was congratulating himself on her present state when Verity wriggled a little. Somehow she managed to shift her position so that his manhood was lodged in the soft cleft of her derriere.


"I knew it was too good to last," he murmured, nuzzling her neck.

"What was too good to last?"

"Never mind. Go back to sleep, Verity. We'll talk in the morning."

"About what?" she asked with a yawn.

"About whether or not you issued me an invitation tonight."

"You mean whether or not I'm inviting you to sleep here on a regular basis?"

"Are you?" He was being gently squeezed between her bu**ocks and could feel himself getting very hard.

"Do you want to move in with me, Jonas?"

He groaned. "Yes."

"I guess we could try it for a while," Verity said slowly. "I don't know how long it can last, though.

We'll probably be at each other's throats within a couple of days."

"Ever the optimist, aren't you? Personally, I give us at least a week." He stroked himself in the warm furrow and felt Verity stir again. Jonas leaned over and brushed his mouth across hers. "Hell, maybe two weeks if you intend to apologize the way you did tonight every time you lose your temper with me."

"I did not apologize!"

"A matter of interpretation," he assured her and deepened the kiss so that she could not argue.

* * *

Damon Kincaid scowled at the view outside his office window. Behind him on the desk lay a list of the guests who had been invited to bid on Bloodlust. Kincaid had studied each of the half-dozen names very carefully. Jonas Quarrel's name was not on it.

Strange. Kincaid knew all the names on that list and he knew all of them did their own bidding.

If Tresslar's discreet mercenary agency had done its job properly two nights ago, Kincaid wouldn't have been bothered with Quarrel now. But things had gone wrong; disturbingly wrong.

The report of failure had arrived a few minutes earlier, delivered by Tresslar in that annoying hick accent. Kincaid had been furious.

"Is your man alive?" he'd demanded.

"He's alive."

"How much does he know?"

"The only thing he had was a description and location of his target. He does not know why the contract was issued or who issued it. I assure you our safety precautions are all in place and functioning. You are in no danger."

"What happens to that idiot you hired to take care of Quarrel?"

"As I said, he knows nothing of importance. He's on his own. It was part of our arrangement. My guess is he'll tell the authorities he was merely looking for an empty cabin in which to spend a cold night and was startled to find it occupied. He thought he was being attacked. He panicked and tried to protect himself. As I said, it's his problem. My agency is out of it and so are you. We are both protected by my precautions."

"What about the down payment I gave you?"

"You have two options. We will be happy to refund your money, or you can give us the go-ahead to conclude the contract, in which case, I myself will do the job this time. We like satisfied customers."

Kincaid had given that consideration. "I believe I'll have you finish the contract, but this time we'll do it my way. I want to give the instructions. I will be actively involved and I will be in charge in the field. Don't worry, I don't need to see your face. You'll be working at night and out-of-doors. You can wear a ski mask or something."

There had been a long pause on the other end of the line. "It'll cost you a lot more to do it that way."

"Never mind the cost. Can you guarantee the job this time?"

"You got it." The phone was replaced on the other end of the line.

Kincaid reran the conversation several times in his head and then reran his own blossoming plans. After a moment he got up and went to the wall to take down a handsome rapier. Dropping into fencer's crouch, he made a few quick feints before sliding skillfully into a long, deadly thrust that buried the blade in the stuffed dummy.

He was looking forward to the night he would be spending at the house. It was a long time since he'd had an excuse to do his own dirty work. But an old lust that he'd kept under control for a long time was stirring deep within him.

There had been little problem satisfying his superficial sexual needs in the past few years. Women were drawn to power and money the way moths were drawn to flames. But he'd been forced to suppress this other need, obliged to dampen and conceal it in the darkest part of himself.

The prospect of personal involvement in violence was enough to draw aside the veil that had covered this other lust for far too long. He discovered that the dark, thrilling passion was still there within him, as strong as it had ever been. Now that he had awakened it once more, it would not be hidden again until it had been satisfied.

Kincaid thrust the rapier into the helpless dummy again and felt the sensual tension that pulsed in his groin.

Chapter Sixteen

THE sea appeared deceptively calm from the windows of Caitlin Evanger's house. Verity stood in the bedroom she had been assigned, the same one she'd had last time, and gazed down at the cliffs. She noticed that from this angle she could see the broken safety fence where it sagged precariously at the edge. Caitlin really ought to get that fixed.

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