"I also don't like the way this friendship between the two of you materialized out of nowhere a few weeks before she planned her grand scheme. And I don't like the way Kincaid found out about us.
And I don't like the way that joker in the camouflage shirt showed up at the cabin with a gun. There are a lot of things I don't like about this scene, but most of all I don't like the fact that I can't talk you into leaving right now."
"Jonas, I would if I could. But I can't walk out on her. She needs me. She said so."
"She's got Tavi. Apparently that's the only person she's needed until now." Jonas saw the stubbornness in Verity's face and gave up the battle he knew he could not win. He tightened his hold on her and swung her around so that her blue velvet skirts shimmered in the soft light. "Oh, hell, forget it. We're here and it's going to be over soon. We'll stick it out and hope like the devil that Evanger knows what she's doing. In the meantime, I don't want you leaving this crowd unless I'm with you. Got that?"
"You don't think I'm in any danger?" she asked, clearly amazed by the notion.
"I don't know what to think," he admitted. "So I'm not taking any chances." A movement in the arched doorway caught his eye. "Damn. There's Kincaid now. So much for hoping he would short-circuit things by not showing up."
Kincaid had chosen to wear a plum-colored tunic over a white shirt and tights similar to the ones Jonas had on. Jonas wondered if Kincaid found them as uncomfortable as he did. Gave a man a whole new perspective on pantyhose. Still, the tights were remarkably flexible, he had to admit. There was a great deal of freedom of movement. A man could fight in a tunic and tights. That would have been an important consideration for Renaissance male fashion designers.
"Kincaid? Where?" Verity tried to turn here head so that she could see him.
"Christ, don't stare at the man," Jonas ordered, exasperated by her too-obvious fascination. 'The last thing I want to do is attract his attention. Whatever is going to happen here is between him and Evanger and I don't want you any more involved than you already are."
"He's bound to see us sooner or later. The crowd is large, but not large enough to hide us."
"Well, we're not going to make things easier by going over and saying hi."
"Okay, okay. Sometimes you can be very short-tempered and difficult, Jonas. Has anyone ever pointed that out to you?"
"You have. All the time. Part of your duty as a shrew, I guess." He dropped his arm from her waist and propelled her toward the buffet table. "Let's get something to eat, my lady."
"I wonder what Caitlin's thinking now." Verity managed a swift glance at the artist, who was holding court on the other side of the room.
Jonas followed her gaze, his eyes narrowed in thought. Caitlin Evanger was certainly dressed for her role as a mistress of a Renaissance court salon tonight, he had to admit. Of all the people present, she was the only one who wasn't wearing a rented costume. Her dress appeared to have been handmade for her.
The gold-brocaded gown exposed a magnificent expanse of flesh above Caitlin's full br**sts, far more skin than he would have allowed Verity to expose, Jonas decided. The huge, puffed sleeves were slashed to reveal red silk under-sleeves. Evanger's short-cropped hair was hidden beneath a delicate, jewel-studded cap that had a long gold silk scarf attached. The scarf shimmered down the length of her back whenever she turned her head,
"Do you think he might recognize her?" Verity asked curiously.
"She said he wouldn't. She said she changed a lot after the accident, remember?"
"I know, but how could any man forget the face of a woman he had abused like that?"
Jonas didn't reply to that. He was in no mood to try to explain a man like Kincaid to Verity. He didn't want to tell her that he had met a number of men who saw women only as objects of lust and that five or ten years after that lust had been satisfied, they would not remember either the woman's face or the satisfaction they had taken from her. Jonas didn't want to listen to another lecture on the evil tendencies of his own sex. He was familiar enough with them.
"Have some of this vegetable pat6," he ordered, smearing the green concoction on a triangle of toast.
Verity glanced at him, eyes worried, her lips parting to say something. Jonas took the opportunity to slip the toast between her teeth, effectively silencing her. It was easier than trying to answer any of her questions.
"Caitlin just saw him," Verity whispered around the pate\ "Look at her. She's as tense as a bowstring."
"So are you. Calm down. This is her show."
"I'm scared, Jonas."
"This is a fine time to decide to get scared. Why didn't you get nervous this afternoon when I was ready to pack and leave?"
"I mean, I'm scared for Caitlin, not for myself. Why should I be frightened personally?"
"I don't know," Jonas admitted, aware of the discordant stirring of a few primitive instincts somewhere deep inside himself. "But if it makes you feel any better, I don't feel normal, either. Something's going on here." He watched intently as Kincaid made his way leisurely through the crowd to greet Caitlin. Caitlin greeted him with stiff formality but there was no sign of recognition from Kincaid. After the barest of introductions, Caitlin deliberately turned her back on Kincaid, who appeared unconcerned by the brush-off.
"Something more than what Caitlin told us?" Verity asked with unexpected shrewdness.
"It's possible. It's equally possible she's been honest with us but that she's made the mistake of underestimating her enemy. God knows she wouldn't be the first one in history to have done that."
Verity chewed on her lower lip. "Now you've really got me worried, Jonas. What if Kincaid has guessed he's being set up?"
"If Kincaid had any inkling of what was meant to happen tonight, I wouldn't give two cents for Caitlin's chances of getting her vengeance. In fact, I'm not sure I'd give two cents for her life."
Jonas ignored her small, choked cry. He tracked Kincaid's progress through the room, watching as the man moved graciously through the crowd, greeting acquaintances and introducing himself to others. He was a man completely in command of himself. A Borgia who had total confidence in his power. Jonas decided that if Kincaid had guessed what was meant to happen, Caitlin Evanger didn't stand a chance.
"Something tells me he knows something's up, Verity. He's too smart and too powerful to be taken unawares. Caitlin is a fool."