"Honey, I know it must have been a shock to discover you were pregnant, but it's going to work out.

You'll see. We're both adaptable. We can handle it."

"One of us doesn't have much choice but to handle it," she observed dryly.

"We'll both handle it." His voice was flat, his words unequivocal. "Verity, we're in this together, you and me. And don't forget it."

She touched the side of his hard jaw and thought about the fact that he was the father of her child. She remembered how certain she had been of what she was doing that first time she had gone to bed with him.

Intellectually she had known back then that there were going to be problems and uncertainties, because in many ways it had seemed obvious that Jonas was not the right man for her. But paradoxically, on another level Verity had been certain he was the one she had been waiting for all her life. And she knew she would not have picked any other man to be the father of her baby.

"I won't forget, Jonas."

He tugged her into his arms and sat down on the edge of the bed, cradling her carefully. "You're sure you're all right? That bastard didn't hurt you?"

"I did more damage to him than he did to me, believe me. Me and my trusty cane."

"How could you get into so much trouble just going down the hall to the bathroom?"

"It's a knack."

It was drizzling the next morning when Jonas and Verity checked out of the Harbor Watch Inn. The slate-gray skies stretched beyond the horizon, promising rain for the foreseeable future.

"I caught the weather report on the radio while you were taking your shower," Jonas told Verity as they walked through town toward the marina. "There are a series of storms coming in from the Pacific."

"Hope the villa is waterproofed." Verity stopped in front of a small grocery store. "I think I'll pick up a few groceries. Maggie Frampton's pantry is a bit limited."

"I don't want you volunteering to play chef for that bunch." Jonas's expression was stern. "We're supposed to be consultants, not household help."

"Yes, but we have to eat, don't we? You want to subsist on mashed potatoes for the rest of the week?

I'm just going to pick up a few things. Won't be a minute."

He glanced down the street. "All right. I'll meet you back here in twenty minutes."

"Where are you going?"

"I'm going to see if I can find a newsstand," he said vaguely.

Verity eyed him curiously. She could have sworn he had made that up on the spur of the moment. "A newsstand?"

"I'll be back in a few minutes." He handed her the umbrella and loped off down the sidewalk.

Verity watched him from the shelter of the umbrella. She liked that new fleece-lined jacket on him, she decided. But then, she liked Jonas in almost anything. Or nothing at all. With a faint smile she went into the grocery store.

Twenty minutes later she was waiting for Jonas under the store awning, three large bags at her feet.

Jonas came around the corner, took one look, and groaned.

"Who's going to carry all those sacks and my duffel bag back to the launch?"

"Now, Jonas, don't be difficult. I'm sure we can manage. Here, you take the duffel bag and one sack. I'll carry the rest of the groceries."

"What about your cane?"

Verity tucked it under her arm. "I don't need it anymore," she said, realizing even as she spoke that it was the truth. "The ankle's a bit tender, but that's all. I think Oliver Crump's poultices worked. Or maybe it was the effect of the crystal."

"I think your ankle got better all by itself," Jonas muttered, picking up a bag of groceries. "No need to go looking for psychic explanations. Watch your step."

"Don't you like Oliver?"

"He's all right, I guess. Just another weirdo."

Verity giggled. "You're loaded with strange psychic talent, and you've got the nerve to call him weird!"

Jonas was quiet for a moment. "The thing is, I don't think of my talent as weird. It's a part of me, just like being able to see, or hear, or touch is a part of me. It's like having a sixth sense. It's given me trouble for a good portion of my adult life, and there have been times when I thought it would drive me insane, but it's never seemed alien or strange. It's just part of me." He hesitated again, then added, "It's like you, in a way."

"Me!"

"Yeah, you." He smiled. "You give me a lot of trouble, and there are times when I think you'll drive me insane, but I'm stuck with you. You're a part of me. Here." He juggled the sacks and duffel bag until he could fish a small white package out of his jacket pocket. "This is for you."

"A present? For me?" Verity was startled. She managed to take the package from him. It carried the logo of the shop where she had seen the fire-colored earrings. She knew instantly what was in the package. "Jonas, how sweet. Thank you." She tore the package open and peered eagerly inside. Crystal flames winked at her. "They're beautiful! Absolutely beautiful."

"They weren't very expensive," Jonas said uneasily. "Are you sure those are the ones you liked?" His gaze was very intent as he watched her delighted expression.

"Definitely. I love them. Thank you, Jonas." Verity stood on tiptoe and managed to brush his cheek with her lips even though the sacks they were carrying got in the way.

"I'm touched, really touched. It was so sweet of you to remember them this morning."

"I don't know about the color of those earrings," Jonas remarked as they resumed walking toward the marina. "I still think you'd look better with something that matched your eyes."

"These are the ones I want." She stowed the package safely in her pocket. She couldn't wait to put them on. "They're just right."

"In that case," Jonas said softly, "consider them an engagement gift."

Verity snapped her head around to stare at his rock-hard profile. "You can't do that."

"Can't do what?" he asked innocently.

"You can't give a gift with… with strings like that attached."

"Verity," he said wearily, "you're old enough to know there are strings attached to everything in life. And you're smart enough to realize that I'll put strings on you any way I can. You want the earrings?"

"You know I want the earrings," she muttered, clutching the small box. She wanted them very badly, more than she had realized when she'd first spotted them in the window. The earrings were hers, they belonged to her. She was certain of it.

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