Before Verity could think of a response, he had lifted her into his arms and was heading for the door.

It was most unfortunate for the sake of future business relations that when Doug carried her back into the cabin an hour later, he got a knife at his throat for his trouble.

"What the hell is going on here?" Jonas asked. His voice was a cold, dangerous snarl coming from the shadows.

Chapter Three

" Jonas! Put down that knife this instant! Honestly, I have never been so embarrassed in my life." Verity scrabbled for the switch on the wall behind Doug. "I'm terribly sorry about this, Doug."

Doug didn't move an inch. He stood perfectly still, holding Verity in his arms. He blinked when the light came on, revealing the man holding the knife. "I think there's a slight misunderstanding here," he croaked.

"I think maybe there is," Jonas agreed in an ominously soft voice.

"Jonas, stop it. This is ridiculous. You're humiliating me. And just look at you. You're a mess." Verity glared furiously at Jonas. He definitely was not in any condition to impress clients. The knife he was holding at Doug's throat was the worst of it, of course, but the rumpled, stained work shirt and jeans and the rough stubble of several days' growth of beard did not help matters. His golden eyes glittered like those of a predator. At least he appeared to be in good shape physically, she thought, feeling a rash of relief.

"What's going on here, Verity?" Jonas flicked a brief, grim glance at her before returning his gaze to his victim.

"Stop behaving like a Neanderthal and I'll explain."

"This had better be good." Jonas lowered the knife with obvious reluctance. "Put my woman down before I have a change of heart about what to do with this knife," he added to the man cradling Verity.

"Her ankle," Doug managed tightly.

Jonas scanned Verity's legs and saw the elastic bandage around her right ankle. "For Christ's sake, Verity, what happened to you?"

"I twisted my ankle outside on the deck. If you had asked a few civil questions instead of going for poor Doug's throat with that knife, you would have saved yourself having to apologize."

"Who's apologizing?"

"You will soon enough," Verity vowed. She smiled warmly up at Doug, who still stood there, frozen.

"I'm so embarrassed about this. Just set me down over there on the couch, will you?"

"You're sure you're all right here with him?" Doug asked as he put her down carefully. He eyed Jonas warily.

"Heavens, yes. I'll be fine." The expression on Doug's face alarmed her. She could see Jonas's fat consulting fee slipping rapidly away. "I can't thank you enough for all your help this evening. I don't know what I would have done without you. I'm really sorry about this… " She waved a hand that casually included Jonas and his knife. "Sometimes Jonas overreacts to situations. He's a little high-strung.

Impetuous. Leaps to conclusions. You know how these academic types are. But I can assure you that he's quite good in his field of expertise."

"I see." Doug's eyes were on the knife that Jonas had not yet bothered to put away. "I was assuming that his field of expertise was Renaissance history."

Verity desperately tried to salvage the situation before Doug convinced himself that Jonas's field of expertise was slitting throats. "I'm sure he'll suit your needs just fine. I can certainly guarantee there won't be any more awkward scenes like this. As his business manager, I'll see to it that he behaves himself."

"Maybe we'd better discuss this in the morning," Doug said, edging back toward the door. "Laura and Elyssa are out in the car. Wouldn't want to keep them waiting any longer. Pretty cold out there this evening. Nice to meet you, Mr. Quarrel. Hope you had a good, er, business trip. Understand you were out of the country for a while." Doug was nearly at the door. Like any good stockbroker, he kept talking right up until the last second. "Good night, Verity. Take care of that ankle." He pulled the door shut behind him.

A taut silence fell upon the small room.

"High-strung?" Jonas finally echoed blandly. "Impetuous?" He tossed the knife into the open duffel bag that lay at the foot of the sofa. His eyes gleamed as he walked forward and loomed over Verity.

"Well, I had to think of something to explain your cretinous behavior." Verity settled back into a corner of the sofa and met his challenging gaze without flinching. Then she chewed on her lower lip. "Jonas, are you all right?"

"I was until I got home in time to watch you being carried over the threshold by this year's cover boy for Gentlemen's Quarterly. Practicing for playing bride?"

"Don't be ridiculous," she retorted tartly. "Where's Dad?"

"In Rio with Lehigh. Emerson said he needed a vacation. He decided that watching string bikinis and topless bathing suits parading up and down the beach was just the thing to relax a man of his years. I,"

Jonas added virtuously, "felt obliged to rush straight home to the little woman I just knew would be waiting anxiously for my return."

Verity ignored that last crack. "Sam Lehigh's all right? The kidnappers turned him over without a fuss?"

"He's fine. The guys who had him were not the brightest bunch." Jonas ran a hand through his tousled hair. As the tension drained out of his body, his exhaustion became obvious. He stifled a yawn.

"And Dad?"

"He's fine too. Nobody who counted got hurt."

"Nobody who counted! What about the kidnappers?" Verity asked anxiously.

Jonas regarded her through narrowed eyes. "I said nobody who counted got hurt. You, being the upright little citizen you are, will be pleased to know that the three who had Lehigh are now enjoying the hospitality of a Mexican jail."

Verity brightened. "You turned the whole thing over to the police after all? I'm so glad. I knew it would be better if you handled it that way."

"We didn't exactly turn them over to the Mexican cops," Jonas said carefully. "We just sort of left the three jerks at the scene of the crime. You know how it is down there. Whoever's hanging around when the police move in is generally considered guilty."

"What, exactly, did you leave those three hanging around with?" Verity demanded suspiciously.

"A warehouse full of drugs. It belonged to relatives, I gather. The three fools were holding Lehigh in the back of the place. After we got Lehigh out, we made sure the kidnappers weren't going anywhere for a while. Then Emerson made an anonymous call to the cops. It was a nice, prestigious arrest for the authorities. Headlines in all the papers, medals for everyone."