"I'm warning you, Jonas."

"Yes, ma'am," he said, chuckling. "I hear the warning. I seem to be inundated with threats and warnings from you lately. After a while it gets hard to take them all seriously."

"You don't sound terribly upset." Verity lifted her head, puzzled at the cheerfulness in his tone. "I thought it would be a terrible shock for you."

"Well, the news did knock me on my ass at first, as you saw, but fortunately I recover fast."

Verity started to relax, truly relax, for the first time in days. A great sense of relief began to unfurl inside her. She hadn't realized how tense she had been. "You really don't mind being a father?"

"If I minded," he told her softly, "I wouldn't have forgotten to take precautions after we made a trip into the psychic corridor, or any other time we made love. I may have my faults, sweetheart, but I'm good at details. Especially those kinds of details."

Verity smiled tremulously and swallowed tears that seemed to have welled up out of nowhere. "My whole life is undergoing a massive change. It's scary, Jonas. I never thought much about having children. I think that somewhere along the line I just came to the conclusion that I wasn't the type or something."

"I think this must be the first and only time I've ever seen you unsure of yourself," Jonas remarked.

"You've recovered from the shock a lot faster than i have. I still fee! strange. I've been feeling that way for days."

"Just leave everything to me, boss. I'll take care of business for you. All you have to do is sit back and get fat."

"That's not funny, Jonas."

"I've been telling you for months you need to put on a little weight."

"This is a rather drastic way to do it," Verity muttered.

Jonas chuckled softly as he picked her up and carried her to the bed. "One of these days you're going to have to learn a few facts of life."

"Such as?"

"Such as the fact that there are some things even an independent, assertive, bossy little tyrant like you has no control over. I can't wait to watch you get nice and round with my baby."

Jonas lay quietly studying the ceiling an hour later. Verity was dozing in his arm, her soft, inviting body relaxed and warmed from his lovemaking. Intermingled with the faint, womanly fragrance that teased his nostrils was his more pungent aroma. The primitive part of him always took satisfaction in the combination of scents that hovered in the air after he had made love to Verity. It was a subtle but absolute confirmation of his recent possession of her.

He took enormous pleasure in the knowledge of what he could do to Verity. He could make her turn to fire in his arms—sweet, hot fire. He was thoroughly addicted to the way she made him feel, hooked on the satisfaction he got from satisfying her. He didn't even want to think about facing the hard, lonely world without her by his side. Verity had brought him the only peace of mind he had known in more years than he wanted to count.

And now she was pregnant with his baby.

The knowledge gave him an odd, almost euphoric rush. Soon there would be three of them—a family.

He was going to have all the responsibilities and obligations of fatherhood.

It was a role he knew little about. His own father had walked out on his mother before he was born. But Jonas figured he knew what he had missed as a kid. A father's love, a firm hand when he'd needed it, someone to talk with about life. Someone to help him prepare for the world.

Thus, Jonas knew what being a father was going to entail. It meant giving his kid the things he had never gotten from his own father. No sweat, he could handle it.

But first he had to give Verity what she needed.

He had been blind, deaf, and dumb not to realize how insecure and unstable their relationship had appeared to her. He had been so content with the situation that he hadn't bothered to consider how Verity felt.

The fact that she had delayed so long in telling him about the baby was proof enough that he had been inexcusably remiss in making her feel secure. Emerson Ames loved his daughter dearly. He'd taught her to look after herself and had given her a fine, albeit unusual, education. He had given her a lot, but the one thing Emerson had not been able to provide Verity was a stable home life.

Jonas chastised himself thoroughly for not having realized weeks ago that after the rootless upbringing she'd had, Verity would need a strong sense of security before she would feel comfortable about having a baby. No wonder she had been distant and withdrawn. She was nervous, even scared, probably.

Jonas had invaded and taken over the neat, orderly, home-bound little world Verity had created for herself. Then, before she had fully adjusted to having him in her life, he had given her a baby.

The lady who had planned to be alone and independent all her life had suddenly had her whole world turned upside down, in the span of a few short months. Jonas mentally ticked off the things Verity now needed from him.

She needed reassurance.

She needed security.

She needed to know she could count on him.

She needed a last name for the baby.

She needed a husband.

Jonas rolled onto his side and gently shook Verity awake. Her lashes fluttered and then rose lazily, revealing the beautiful depths of her aquamarine eyes.

"What is it?" she asked, yawning. She stretched languidly, her br**sts gently undulating. "Something wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong. I've just decided we're going to get married," he announced. "As soon as we get back to Sequence Springs."

Verity, caught in midyawn, stared at him for a good thirty seconds. Then her mouth closed with a snap. "

Married. Why?"

Her dumbfounded expression wasn't quite what he had expected. Jonas narrowed his eyes. " Why?"

She nodded. "Why?"

"For all the obvious reasons," he exploded. "We're living together, and you're pregnant. How many more reasons do you need to get married?"

Verity sat up and reached for her robe. "It just now occurred to you that maybe we ought to get married?" she asked politely as she secured the robe.

"I was lying here thinking about the baby and the future, and how you grew up without a permanent home. I realized you'd probably be a lot more happy about the baby if you had a sense of security. So I'm going to marry you." Jonas realized he was sounding a bit pompous, perhaps even a touch patriarchal. He couldn't help it. He had expected her to leap at the idea of marriage. The fact that she wasn't absolutely thrilled left him floundering.

"Well, that's very nice of you to offer to marry me, Jonas, but I really don't think it's necessary, thank you very much."

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