Verity knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jonas would be destroyed or driven insane by the emotions of the past as they swept through the rapier into him.

"Jonas, no!" Verity darted forward and grabbed his arm just as his muscles were bunching for the kill.

He shook her off with such force that she went spinning against the bed. Florentine gold eyes glittered with relentless fury as he turned to look at her. A four-hundred-year-old ghost looked out of those eyes, but so did a twentieth-century man consumed by rage. "He was going to rape you. Kill you. I'll see him in hell for that."

Caitlin whispered hoarsely from the doorway."Yes. Now. Kill him. Kill him!"

Kincaid looked from the face of the man who held him at blade point to the scarred woman in the doorway. "Who the hell are you?" he rasped. "What's going on here?"

"Kill him," Caitlin screamed.

Jonas started to plunge the rapier into Kincaid's soft flesh. Kincaid screamed and Verity leaped up from the bed. She caught hold of Jonas's arm one more time.

"No," she said tightly. "Not you, Jonas. Listen to me. You can't kill him. Everything in that corridor is waiting for you. I won't be able to hold those ribbons in the corridor if you kill him now. The past will devour you if you kill him."

"I'll take my chances."

"No, you won't. I won't allow it."

"Dammit, Verity," Jonas hissed.

Caitlin moved forward, her expression savage. "I agree. He has to die. Not for what he was about to do to Verity, but for what he did to me."

Kincaid stared at her. He licked at his lips, obviously seeking a way to buy some time. "Who are you?"

She looked down at him with the air of a woman pronouncing sentence on a condemned man. Then she smiled terribly. "Susan Connelly."

"No," Kincaid said in a thin scream. "No, you can't be."

"You're right," Caitlin said with an odd twist to her smile. "I'm not Susan. Not anymore." Her eyes flashed at Jonas. "Do it now while I can see the fear in his eyes."

"I won't let you use Jonas as your condottiere," Verity warned fiercely. "This is your scene. You write the ending."

Caitlin stared at her. Then she lunged for the hilt of the rapier.

Jonas blinked, startled, and released the weapon into her clutching fingers.

Verity was instantly free of the corridor. It vanished along with the throbbing, hungry ribbons that had been swirling around her. She had time to see the metallic-colored one, cheated of its prey, rejoin the pack before the whole scene disappeared. It was a tremendous relief not to have to deal with two realities at once.

"You're all crazy! Crazy! " Kincaid leaped to his feet as the exchange was being made. He threw himself at Caitlin, clearly not expecting her to be able to use the rapier.

But Caitlin raised the tip of the blade as he launched himself toward her, bringing it instinctively into line with Kincaid's chest.

Kincaid had no chance to alter his course. His scream of rage and pain filled the room as he impaled himself on the rapier. He clutched the hilt in both hands as he slowly crumpled to his knees. His glazing eyes met Caitlin's as he sank to the floor in front of her. He looked stunned that such a fate could have overtaken him. Stunned that a woman could have done this to him. Then he looked very, very dead.

There was a shout from downstairs. Apparently someone had finally figured out something was going on upstairs.

Jonas glanced down at the dead man and then looked at each of the women in turn. "No question about it," he said meaningfully. "A clear-cut case of self-defense. We've got four eyewitnesses and we're all going to tell the same story. No sense confusing the authorities. Pay attention, ladies, while I give you the rough outline."

Chapter Nineteen

HIS arm hurt like hell. The anesthetic the doctor had provided when he stitched up the wound was wearing off, Jonas realized. But it was worth the discomfort just to have the opportunity to be the focus of Verity's anxious concern.

It occurred to him that he had never seen her fuss before, unless he counted the times she got upset because a sauce separated or a souffle fell. It was strangely pleasant to have her hovering protectively.

She hadn't left his side since the battle upstairs had ended, except to fetch and carry whatever he requested. The little tyrant had turned into a devoted handmaid.

Jonas told himself he'd better enjoy the service and attention while he could. Knowing Verity, it wouldn't last long.

"I think you should be in bed, Jonas," she said with a worried little frown as she checked his bandage for the thousandth time. "You know what the doctor said about shock."

"I'm not in shock," Jonas assured her mildly. "But just in case I'm on the verge, why don't you bring me something to drink? Whiskey might be nice."

"I've never heard of alcohol being good for shock."

"Trust me," he said. "Whiskey has been used for centuries to cure everything from snakebite to shock.

Works like a charm."

"If you say so." She hurried over to the bar that had been set up in the long salon at the front of the house. The remains of several half-empty bottles and a number of unopened ones still littered the area.

The bottles of liquor had been left standing where they were when the caterers and the guests had finally realized something dramatic had happened. Only the perishable food had been put away. Caitlin had asked everyone, including the elite group of bidders, to leave as soon as the sheriff's men had finished. The catering staff had promised to return early in the morning to clean up before the auction.

Verity's peacock-blue gown was gone, discarded for a pair of snug-fitting jeans and a teal-blue long-sleeved top that fastened with ten tiny buttons down the front. Jonas watched his boss bend over to find a glass behind the bar. The woman did look good in a pair of jeans.

Caitlin, Tavi, Verity, and Jonas were alone amid the aftermath of the aborted Renaissance ball. It was time for some explanations as far as Jonas was concerned; explanations that went beyond those that had been given to the authorities.

"I want some answers to a few questions," Jonas said as Verity put a cool glass into his hand. She sank down onto a footstool at his feet, close at hand in case he needed anything else. Jonas absently stroked her coppery hair with a sense of amused satisfaction. This was definitely a moment to be savored.

Across the room Tavi and Caitlin sat close together on the gray banquette that lined one wall. Neither woman had said much since the authorities had left. Caitlin seemed to have retreated into a world of her own and Tavi had not left her side.

Jayne Ann Krentz Books | Suspense Books | Gift Series Books