"Yeah, it's what I'm being paid to do, remember?" he said with a lazy smile. "Spencer's right. Screw pure and noble scholarship. I'm in this for the money. Another couple of days should wrap this up."

Spencer glared at him and got to his feet. "I need a drink." He left the room.

"I'll come with you," Doug Warwick said to Jonas. "I want to see how things are progressing."

When everyone else had left the dining room, Oliver Crump looked at Verity. "You've told him?" he asked quietly.

Verity smiled. "I told him."

"He's pleased."

"He doesn't seem to mind as much as I thought he would," she admitted cautiously.

"He's definitely pleased. Probably because he sees it as another link in the chain that binds you to him.

He's a possessive man."

"You seem to know a lot about Jonas."

Crump shrugged and reached into his pocket for the large shard of yellow crystal he carried. "Your ankle is back to normal."

"You can tell that from looking at the crystal?"

His mouth twitched in a rare smile. "No, I can tell that because I can see you aren't using the cane."

Verity laughed. "Brilliant deduction. I think your poultice might have helped, Oliver. Or maybe it was the crystal. At any rate, thanks."

He turned the crystal in his hands, frowning down at it. "You're welcome."

"What are you going to do with the crystal now?"

Oliver looked up, the intent frown still lining his features. "I'm not sure," he said slowly. "But I've been doing a lot of thinking. If you don't mind, I'd like to try an experiment." He put the crystal in the center of the table where she could reach it if she stretched out her hand.

"Sure, I'm game," Verity said cheerfully. "What are we going to do?"

"Cure Maggie Frampton's headache."

"I didn't know she had one."

"She does," Oliver said. "She told me about it before lunch."

"I thought she looked a little off-color. Does she want to be the subject of a crystal experiment?"

Maggie came through the door to pick up the last of the dishes. "What's this about an experiment?" she demanded.

"Oliver says you have a headache. Want to see if he can cure it with the crystal?"

"Bunch of damned nonsense," Maggie said stoutly. But she sat down next to Oliver. "Digby would never have approved of this crazy stuff."

"It can't do any harm," Oliver said reassuringly.

"True enough, I suppose." Maggie rubbed her head. "And the aspirin I took isn't doing much good. I'm willing to give the crystal a try. What do I do?"

Oliver picked up the crystal and gave it to her to hold. "Just keep this in your hand. Close your eyes and try to relax. Try to let your mind go blank."

"Blank, eh?" Maggie sounded skeptical but she did as instructed and closed her eyes.

Oliver motioned to Verity to come around the table. Without a word she got up and did so.

"I'm going to put my hand on the crystal Maggie's holding," Oliver said in his calm, soothing voice. "I want you to put your hand on top of mine, Verity."

"Okay." She waited until he was lightly touching the crystal. Then she put out her fingers and rested them briefly on his hand.

Something was just a tad off-center.

"Do whatever you think needs doing, Verity." Oliver's voice was very soft.

Verity frowned and closed her eyes, trying to concentrate. Her red crystal earrings felt warm in her ears.

She thought for a moment and found herself unable to describe what it was that seemed slightly out of alignment. She didn't have the words. But she sensed a way to straighten it out.

"Here," she said, moving Oliver's fingers slightly. "This way. Yes, that's it. Right there."

"Yes, I've got it now. That feels right, doesn't it? Thank you, Verity. You can take your hand away now."

Verity opened her eyes and stepped back. She watched in fascination as Oliver bent over the crystal in Maggie Frampton's hand. He began talking quietly to Maggie in a gentle, relaxing chant.

Time passed and Oliver finally stopped speaking. He took the crystal out of Maggie's hand. "Open your eyes, Maggie."

She blinked at him suspiciously. "Hmmm." Experimentally she turned her head first to one side and then the other. "Better," she announced. "I declare. That's a lot better, all right. Maybe you're onto something with that crystal thing."

"Or maybe the aspirin finally kicked in," Oliver Crump said wryly. "We'll never know for sure."

"Well, either way, I appreciate it," Maggie said as she rose to her feet. "Just hope the cure lasts." She nodded at Oliver and Verity and left the room.

There was a short silence. Oliver was staring at Verity thoughtfully. She wanted to ask him more about crystals, but something made her glance toward the doorway.

Jonas stood there watching them. His eyes were unreadable. The lazy masculine satisfaction that had shone warmly in that golden gaze all during lunch was gone. "I came back to see if you knew what happened to my notebook, Verity. I can't find it."

"I think you left it in the salon. I noticed you writing something down in it just before lunch." She smiled at him and wondered why he was lying. He knew perfectly well where he'd left the notebook. She would have bet her life on it.

Without a word Jonas vanished from the doorway.

"That," Oliver Crump observed thoughtfully, "is a man who could be driven to kill if he thought he was going to lose you."

Verity was shocked to the core. "He would kill me?" she whispered.

"No," Crump said, shaking his head with grim finality. "Never you. But any man who tried to take you away from Quarrel would soon discover that his life wasn't worth much. I think Jonas has seen more violence that most men see in a lifetime. Perhaps he caused some of it himself. Whatever the reason, it is a part of his nature, and you must be prepared to accept that."

Verity spread her fingers on the tablecloth and looked down at them. Jonas had experienced violence from several lifetimes, she knew. He had a psychic affinity for it. She wondered if that sort of thing was an inherited trait. She took one hand off the table and touched her abdomen.

Oliver Crump sat alone at the table for a long while after Verity left. He had been right. Verity Ames had answers to questions he had been asking for a long time. She could teach him things he longed to know about working with crystals. Already he had learned more than he had ever expected.

Tags: Jayne Ann Krentz Gift Suspense
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