There was a pause, and Verity pictured the exotic woman with her scarred face and twisted leg. For a few seconds she wondered if all was not going as well as Tavi had implied. "Caitlin?" she prompted gently.
"I'm here. And it's true, I'm painting again. I was just thinking about how to tell you how grateful I am. I feel so different these days, Verity. I don't feel nearly as old as I did six months ago, yet in some ways I feel infinitely wiser. Isn't that a strange way to feel?"
Verity unconsciously touched her stomach. "No," she said. "I think I know exactly how you feel."
"You are still with Jonas?"
"Jonas?" Verity glanced at him; he was standing in front of the window, watching the harbor activity.
"Yes, I'm still with him."
Jonas looked over his shoulder, scowling. She smiled blandly back at him.
"Good," said Caitlin. "The two of you need each other. You're so good for each other."
"Caitlin, I'm calling to ask a favor. Or rather, Jonas wants to ask a favor."
"Do you still have those old records from the Department of Paranormal Research?"
"They're filed in the basement. Why?"
"I'll let Jonas explain." Jonas walked toward her and Verity handed him the phone.
"I've got a list of names, Caitlin," he said without preamble. "I need to know if you've got any information on them in those old files."
"Just a second, let me get a pen and paper." There was a small clatter on the other end of the line. "All right, Jonas. Give me the names."
"Elyssa Warwick, her brother Doug, Oliver Crump, Preston Yarwood, and Slade Spencer. I think the last one, Spencer, may have a drug problem."
"I'll see what Tavi and I can turn up. It'll take a while, though. How soon do you need the information?"
"As soon as possible." Jonas threw a wry glance at Verity. "Verity has chosen a new career path for me.
I'm in the middle of my first consulting case." He read her the phone number off the phone.
"Where is that area code?" Caitlin asked curiously.
"The Northwest, near Seattle. The case is supposed to be part business and part vacation. We're on an island in the San Juans."
"At this time of year?"
"Yeah. Verity thought it would be a good substitute for Hawaii."
Caitlin chuckled softly. "Is she still of the same opinion?"
"You know Verity. She insists on looking on the bright side. She was doing a good job of it, too, until she found out the bathrooms in this bed-and-breakfast place are down the hall."
"Quaint. Probably reminds her of some of the dumps her father and she lived in when she was a kid."
Jonas raised his eyebrows. He held the phone away from his ear and just looked at it for a moment before saying slowly, "How did you know about the kinds of places she lived in as a kid?"
"Verity and I are friends," Caitlin said quietly. "We've talked. I hope one of these days you and I will be able to be friends, too, Jonas. In the meantime, I certainly owe you a few favors. I'll see if I can find any of these people in the old files."
"Thanks." The clipped word was grudgingly spoken, but it was meant. Jonas hung up the phone. He turned around to see Verity digging high heels and pantyhose out of the seemingly bottomless duffel bag.
"You've been keeping in touch with her," he said in a strangely neutral tone.
"You've got a strange notion of friendship."
"If you think my friends are strange," Verity shot back, "you should meet my lover."
For an instant she thought he was going to lose his temper. But he shocked her by taking the remark seriously. "Do you really think I'm strange, Verity?" Jonas asked roughly. "Is that what's been bothering you lately? You've come to the conclusion that I'm some kind of freak?"
She wished she'd kept her mouth shut. "Don't be a total ass," she scolded. "Of course I don't think you're a freak. I think of you as the sexiest thing to come along since black lace underwear. Now stop talking nonsense and get dressed. It's almost dinnertime, and I've found a nifty place in the guidebook."
Jonas smiled slightly, but his eyes were still watchful. "Cute and quaint?"
"I believe it has a nautical theme," Verity remarked serenely.
"Why doesn't that surprise me?"
She handed him a strip of silk. "Here."
"Very funny. You know perfectly well it's a tie."
"Is this a hint that I'm supposed to dress tonight?"
"It is." She collected her silk dress from the closet. "Wear something besides jeans with that tie."
An hour later, Verity confronted Jonas over her salad. This time the guidebook had not been misleading. The restaurant theme was painfully nautical. There were stuffed fish displayed on the walls, a display of ropes tied in intricate knots, and a variety of sailing apparatus strewn about in what Verity assumed was an artistic fashion. The menu featured fish cooked in every conceivable style. Fortunately there were also a few meatless pasta selections.
"Cute place, isn't it?" Verity spoke determinedly.
"Nobody else in the whole damn place is wearing a tie."
"So the locals don't dress for dinner. That's their problem. You look terrific." Which was the truth, Verity thought with a sudden pang. But then, Jonas always looked good to her—strong, lean, and hard, with that unconscious masculine grace that always fascinated her. His midnight-dark hair was still damp from the light mist that had been falling outside, and his eyes glinted softly in the dim restaurant light.
Jonas gave her an oddly speculative look. "You know something, you look pretty good yourself." He leaned forward and caught her hand.
" My mistress glows by candlelight.
She leaves me breathless; I am undone. Her hair like fire, her eyes like gems, Then she smiles at me; She. is my sun."
"Another four-hundred-year-old, loosely translated Renaissance love poem that you just made up on the spot?" Verity said lightly. But in truth, she was warmed to her soul.
"What can I say? You inspire me," he explained modestly.
Her love for him tugged at her heart, and she almost let herself get sidetracked. But this restaurant wasn't the place to tell him about the baby. She wanted privacy for that. She had no way of knowing how Jonas would react.