She closed her eyes in present time for a moment while she assessed what was happening in the corridor. She sensed the danger there and knew that someone had to deal with it. Jonas had his hands full. He must be waging a major battle just to keep his attention on the present. The past would be reaching for him through that rapier.

The only reason why the past wasn't swamping him was due to her.

She was acting as a magnet for the seething ribbons of emotion that flowed from the faltering image in the corridor. The tendrils of violence and emotion wanted Jonas but they were forced to hover impotently around her.

Instinctively she turned to search for Jonas but she couldn't find him in the corridor. She sensed his presence but he was not in sight. She stood alone watching the short, flickering battle scene.

The two men in the corridor circled each other with the same movements as the two in the bedroom. As the nearest one revolved slowly, rapier ready, Verity saw his face. It was the face of a man about Jonas's age and it was locked in the same taut fighting mask. It was the face of a man who meant to kill his opponent. For some reason the other man's face was more indistinct. The image winked in and out of sight, never progressing beyond the point where the man who was Jonas's age drove his rapier into the chest of the other man.

Over and over that one scene flickered in her mind. Over and over she was forced to watch the ghosts go through the motions of fighting and killing. It always ended the same way: blood welled and the image recycled.

And all the while the tendrils of emotions flowed from the image like blood from a wound. They sought Jonas, the one who had called them forth by touching the rapier, but they were forced to tangle around Verity's feet.

Verity was shaken as she had never been before. She was there alone with the image and the swirl of night and blood that was flooding the corridor. She sensed the dangerous, silent hunger in the ribbons of emotion that slithered around her.

"Verity!"

"Jonas? Where are you?" She whirled around in the corridor, searching for him.

"Stay where you are." Jonas's command came from a disembodied voice that seemed to fill the tunnel.

"Where are you?" she screamed in her mind.

"Trying to balance between the corridor and real time." And then came a disgusted oath.

"Shit."

There was an impression of momentary distraction and pain, then a cry from one of the women in the doorway in the bedroom.

Verity flicked open her eyes briefly, long enough to see the blood on Jonas's wet, muddy shirtsleeve.

Kincaid had found a target.

But Jonas was moving quickly, ignoring his wound as he danced the deadly steps that brought him closer to his opponent.

For the first time Verity realized she hadn't known that Jonas knew how to fence. There was no doubt that Kincaid was an expert. She remembered the swaying dummy in his office that he used for practice.

"Verity. Pay attention, dammit."

Instinctively Verity closed her eyes again and found that she was inundated with violent tendrils of rage and pain. She was in the heart of a whirlwind now. She gasped as multicolored ribbons roiled around her, blinding her, buffeting her, seeking to break free and flow onward in search of Jonas. The storm rocked all her senses but she was able to hold herself steady.

She was the anchor.

Without any warning Jonas was there in the corridor, racing around a hidden curve, heading straight toward the maelstrom of emotions that was creating a storm around Verity.

"Don't move," he snapped.

Jonas stepped into the shifting currents of violence, fear, and rage that swarmed around her. It was as if he were searching for one particular tendril. At last he reached down and grasped a ribbon the color of old metal. He seized it and pulled it free of the others. When he lifted his hand it wriggled in his fist like a steel snake, eager to wrap itself around him.

"Jonas, no!" Verity screamed with sudden insight. "I'm the one who chains them. You must not touch that thing."

He turned to her, golden eyes gleaming. But he said nothing as he wrapped the steel-colored emotion around his arm. The other emotions seethed restlessly at Verity's feet, eager to assault Jonas. They were like a pack of hounds straining at their leashes. She was in danger of losing control over them now. Jonas should never have picked up that particular ribbon.

But Jonas was gone, racing away from her down the corridor with the metallic ribbon in his grasp.

The ribbon reminded Verity more than ever of a snake that was preparing to feed.

Verity understood at last what was happening. Jonas had made a terrifying decision there in the corridor.

He had deliberately taken hold of one of the most dangerous ribbons. She sensed that in doing so, he had subjected himself to a terrible risk. Neither of them knew how far he could stretch his control over his talent.

Verity opened her eyes and the psychic scene in her head wavered and became fuzzy. She tried to hold her attention simultaneously on the heaving ribbons at her feet and on the two men fighting to the death in front of her. She had no energy left for anything as productive as screaming.

Jonas was engaged in a series of lethal feints, thrusts, and parries that were being countered by Kincaid.

But Kincaid seemed to be on the defensive now.

The blades flashed, tangled, and clanged. Jonas came up against the wall with a jolt that momentarily broke his defense. Kincaid, obviously tiring, seized the offensive and thrust forward with all his might.

Jonas threw himself to the side, going down on one knee. Then he lifted the tip of the rapier and thrust upward.

Kincaid looked startled at the maneuver and then he panicked as the sharp point flashed toward him. He interrupted his attack and scrambled awkwardly backward. Jonas rushed him grimly, coming up off his knee in a smooth, long lunge. He twined the rapier with Kincaid's weapon, catching it on his own blade.

Using the leverage he had gained, he wrenched Kincaid's rapier out of his hands.

The blade clattered to the floor and Kincaid fell backward. He screamed incoherently and landed heavily on his side. Jonas had the point of the rapier at his throat before he could rise.

"I'm going to put this blade through your throat, you bastard. I warned you not to touch her. I warned you."

Verity was aware of a great many things at the same time. She knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jonas was going to kill Kincaid. She sensed Caitlin's throbbing passion for vengeance.

And she felt her control slip away. The ribbons of emotion were getting ready to follow Jonas. All they needed was an opening.

The opening would be provided when Jonas slid the rapier into Kincaid's throat. The violence of death caused by the object to which they were attached would open the conduit the ribbons needed to come into the present.

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