She still remembered one nasty encounter with a drunk who had followed her into a down-the-hall bathroom years ago. Her father had heard her screams and come running. The only thing that had saved the drunk from being beaten to death was the arrival of several other tenants. They had pulled Emerson off the man not because they felt any sympathy for the drunk, but because everyone liked Emerson and no one wanted to see him jailed for murder.
Verity decided she had no good memories of places where the bathroom was down the hall. Give her a Sheraton or a Hilton every time.
She opened the door of the ladies' room and found that the light was off in there, too. She began to get nervous, then anger set in. This had gone far enough! For the price she and Jonas were paying, they deserved decent lighting in the bathrooms. She would go wake the manager. Resolutely, Verity started to back out of the bathroom.
She sensed the man's presence behind her a split second before an arm in a heavy wool sweater wrapped around her throat. There was a faint, smoky scent on the wool. The adrenaline of fear flooded her veins, and she opened her mouth to scream. Her cry was cut off by a hot, damp palm.
Verity started to struggle desperately, throwing herself from side to side. It was useless—the man was much stronger than she was. He was overpowering her quickly, dragging her out into the hall and presumably toward the staircase. A jolt went through her sore ankle as it struck the side of the door and Verity's fingers clenched instinctively around the handle of her cane.
Without stopping to think, she lashed out with the hardwood cane, seeking any available target. She struck her assailant's leg and heard a sharp intake of breath. The hand around her throat then tightened, choking her ruthlessly.
She rammed the cane backward, aiming for a vulnerable spot. The end of the stick struck somewhere in the man's midsection, and she heard him gasp. Before he could recover, she rammed again, hoping to hit his groin.
"Bitch!" The word was spoken violently but was almost inaudible as the man released Verity and doubled over in pain.
Verity immediately began to swing the cane again, this time going for the man's head. He dodged and charged blindly for the stairwell.
Verity was screaming the house down even as her assailant hit the stairs at full speed.
A door slammed open down the hall and Jonas came running toward her. He hadn't stopped for his pants, she noticed. His lean, hard body gleamed like that of a naked warrior. All he lacked was a sword and shield.
"Verity, what happened. What the hell's wrong with the lights in this place?" He reached for her and pulled her tightly against him. "Are you all right? What's wrong?"
"The stairs," she managed. "He went down the back stairs. He tried to grab me when I went into the bathroom. Had something over his head, a stocking cap, I think. Wool sweater."
"Dammit! Are you okay?"
"I'm okay." She was shaking but she was all right. "He's getting away, whoever he is, Jonas." She wrenched free of him and hurried to the window. When she peered out into the darkness at the street below she saw no sign of anyone.
"He's probably long gone, but I'll take a look." Jonas raced back to the bedroom and reappeared a moment later in his jeans and boots. He started down the stairs, taking them in twos and threes, and nearly collided with the manager and his wife.
"What's going on up here?" the wife demanded anxiously. "So much noise. Is everything all right?"
"No, everything is not all right," Jonas shot back as he bounded past them. "Some joker just tried to grab my wife. I'm going to see if I can find him. Call the cops."
The woman stared in confusion at Verity as her husband switched on the stairwell lights. "I beg your pardon, my dear. Didn't realize you were married."
"A slight misunderstanding," Verity murmured, not bothering to explain who had misunderstood whom.
"This," said Verity in an aggrieved tone an hour later, "reminds me of what happened the other night back in Sequence Springs. At least I was armed this time." She hoisted the cane triumphantly. "And I didn't sprain my ankle this time, either. For these small mercies, I am grateful. Boy, do I hate places where the bathroom is down the hail. You can have cute and quaint anytime. I'll take luxury and convenience."
"I just wish to hell I could have gotten my hands on that creep." Jonas was prowling the small room, pacing up and down in front of the window as he ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. He had not found the assailant in the wool sweater. Whoever it was had vanished into the cold, wet night.
The police had been polite and efficient. They assured Verity and Jonas that they would check passengers on the ferries and keep their eyes open as they patrolled the island. They stood a good chance of finding the culprit, they said. It was a small community with limited access. Unless the guy had his own boat, he would have to use the ferry. Of course, there was always the possibility that the assailant was local. The police reluctantly admitted that there had been a similar situation just last month.
A tourist had been raped at a resort on the other side of the island, and the man had not been caught.
"So you've got some guy running around this place who likes to hunt lady tourists?" Jonas had challenged angrily.
"I didn't say that, sir," the officer had replied very politely. "I just said there was an incident last month at a resort. It's possible the two incidents are related. That's all I'm saying at the moment. We'll look into it."
"You do that," Jonas had growled, with a menacing look. Verity knew he was furious with himself for not having caught the assailant.
"I should never have let you go down the hall by yourself," Jonas said now. "I should have walked you to the bathroom."
"Don't be so hard on yourself, Jonas. There was no reason on earth to think I was in any danger just going down the hall. I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"That's twice in a matter of days that you've been in the wrong place at the wrong time." Jonas glared at her. "How come you're so damn unlucky lately?"
Verity unconsciously patted her still-flat stomach. "Good question."
Jonas was across the room in two strides. He grabbed Verity's wrists as he crouched in front of her chair. "For Christ's sake, Verity, I wasn't talking about the baby."
She raised her eyebrows in surprise. "Neither was I." And she hadn't been. Belatedly she realized what her protective little pat had implied.