Jonas chuckled, amused by her dismay. "Not everything built during the Renaissance was an architectural marvel. Just ask anyone who was born and raised in Rome, or Milan, or Florence. The most important criterion for a Renaissance house was that it be able to withstand an armed assault. This sucker looks like it was built to do the job."

"I'll say." Verity shivered. "It's going to be dark and gloomy inside."

"Well, it won't be cheerful, that's for sure, but it may not be too dark. It's built around an enclosed courtyard. The rooms will all have much larger windows on the inside walls."

"Just as long as it has indoor plumbing."

"Don't worry. Doug assured me that his uncle installed modern plumbing and wiring in the south wing.

That's the wing facing us. Hazelhurst didn't fancy roughing it out here on an isolated island."

Verity noticed a cheerful note in his voice and smiled. "You're really getting into this, aren't you? I can't believe it. I practically had to threaten you to take this job, and already you're enjoying yourself. Admit it."

Jonas glanced at his duffel bag, which contained, among other things, Digby Hazelhurst's diary. "Might turn out to be interesting after all."

"I knew it," Verity said with satisfaction. "Jonas, I have the feeling this is going to be the beginning of a wonderful consulting career."

"We'll see."

But Verity refused to be put off by his cautious attitude. She had seen him poring over Hazelhurst's diary for the past two days. He had spent every free minute with it before they had left Sequence Springs, and he'd kept his nose buried in it during the flight from San Francisco to Seattle. He had also gone through several texts on Renaissance architecture. Jonas might not admit it yet, Verity thought, but he was fascinated by the project ahead of him.

Doug Warwick had met them at the airport in Seattle. Laura had been right about him—he did own a BMW. They had driven north of the city to the ferry terminal that served the San Juan Islands. The ferry had taken them to one of the larger, more populated islands, and from there Doug had driven them to a marina where he kept a launch.

"The island Uncle Digby built his villa on is too small and isolated to be serviced by the ferry system,"

Warwick had explained as he'd helped his guests into the boat. "He came over to this island to do his shopping and pick up supplies."

"Does anyone else live on Hazelhurst's island?" Verity had asked as she hobbled carefully into the boat, using Jonas's arm for support. Her ankle was still sore.

"Just Maggie Frampton, Uncle Digby's housekeeper. I was sure she'd give her notice after my uncle died. His death really shook her up. I gather the two of them had a thing going. I can't imagine why she would want to stay all alone in that pile of stone, but she seems content. She's free to use the launch whenever she wants to shop or visit her sister in Portland."

The island was tiny, just an oversized piece of rock covered by a thick forest of pine and fir. The stark, gloomy atmosphere was embellished by the gray skies and chill, damp breeze. Jonas had been right when he'd warned her this wasn't going to be like Hawaii, Verity thought wryly.

The small cove below the villa had a floating dock. Verity steadied herself as Doug cut the engine. Jonas leaped lightly up onto the dock and grabbed the lines Doug tossed to him. Then he reached down to help Verity out of the boat.

"With any luck, your room will be ready. Maggie's a good-hearted soul, but she's sometimes a little disorganized. She's not used to having a houseful of strangers," Doug explained as he collected the luggage from the back of the launch. "Uncle Digby rarely entertained, mostly because he only wanted the company of other scholars—and toward the end they all shunned him."

The villa's entrance was set deep inside a massive arch. The huge wooden door swung open with a protesting squeak just as Doug reached it. Elyssa Warwick stood inside, covered from throat to toe in a flowing white dress that emphasized her voluptuous curves. Her smile of welcome was, as usual, serenely glowing. Verity wondered how anyone could radiate so much goodness and light without using an electrical outlet.

"You made it," Elyssa exclaimed, as if there had been some doubt. Her gaze settled on Jonas. "I was getting worried. Preston had a vision of the plane being late. Was it?"

"A few minutes," Verity admitted. "There was a slight delay on the runway."

"I knew it," Elyssa said triumphantly. "Preston is almost never wrong. His visions are so clear."

"I hate to break this to you, Elyssa," Jonas remarked, "but most planes run late these days. It doesn't take any psychic talent to predict that one particular flight might be delayed."

"You haven't met Preston yet. When you do you'll see that he's right nearly all the time." Elyssa did not seem the least bit disturbed by Jonas's disbelief. "Do come in. Everyone else is already here. Maggie's got your room ready."

Verity realized that she was beginning to have a few problems with Elyssa Warwick. There was something about the way the other woman watched Jonas that was starting to bother her. Verity had the distinct impression that Elyssa hadn't believed Jonas when he'd told her he had no psychic ability. In any event, there was no doubt that the woman found Jonas fascinating.

"This is Maggie Frampton." Elyssa turned to introduce a stout woman with a riot of frazzled gray curls, standing in the hall behind her. "We're all totally dependent on her. She's the only one who knows how to keep the electricity and plumbing working in this wing. Doug's buyers are going to have to spend a fortune bringing the villa up to date. Maggie, would you please show Verity and Jonas to their room upstairs?" Elyssa glanced at Jonas again. "When you've had a chance to freshen up, please join us downstairs. I want to introduce you to my friends before dinner."

Jonas nodded, eyeing the stone staircase in front of him. He picked up his duffel bag and Verity's small suitcase. Then he gave Maggie Frampton one of his easy grins. "Lead the way, Miss Frampton."

The older woman nodded once and turned toward the stairs. Maggie had a grandmotherly figure, Verity thought, the sort of shape people used to label "buxom." Her faded blue eyes held a shrewd, knowing expression. She was wearing a flower-spattered housedress that appeared to date from the 1950s, and a thin metal chain around her neck disappeared beneath the collar.

"Right this way." Maggie moved heavily up the wide staircase. "Got a nice room for you, it overlooks the garden. Course, that ain't no big deal. Every room in the whole damn place overlooks the garden. Digby always said those old Renaissance types couldn't trust anyone but family, and that's why they built their houses the way they did. Lots of stone walls on the outside to keep the neighbors from breaking in, and plenty of room inside to enjoy the gardens and privacy. But I expect a few of 'em learned you can't always trust family, either."

Tags: Jayne Ann Krentz Books Gift Series Books Suspense Books