To think he very nearly hadn't allowed Elyssa to talk him into spending the week here at the villa. In the end, Crump had come out of sheer curiosity. He'd heard the rumors about Jonas Quarrel, and he'd wanted to learn the truth.
But it was Verity who had captured Crump's immediate attention.
It was odd that she seemed totally unaware of her power. Perhaps it was because she was linked so strongly to Quarrel. It wouldn't occur to her to allow herself to form a mental bond with anyone else. On some fundamental level, Verity Ames was very innocent and very virtuous.
Crump didn't understand the nature of her link with Quarrel, but he sensed the strength of it and it awed him. He knew that he had better learn what he could from Verity while she was here, because Quarrel would never allow her to get too close to any other man, not even one who sought only a psychic connection with her.
Crump smiled wryly. Quarrel would very definitely not let her get close to any male who offered that kind of connection. In Quarrel's eyes, such a bond would be more threatening than a physical seduction.
Jonas Quarrel was an intelligent man. He was also a very possessive one.
But Crump had just discovered that he, himself, was a greedy man in some ways. He would take as much as he could get from Verity, and hope he didn't step so far out of line that Quarrel felt obliged to beat him to a pulp.
Verity saw Preston Yarwood stride furiously back into the villa an hour later. She was alone in the salon at the time, curled up in an overstuffed chair, a book on her lap. But she wasn't reading. She was thinking about babies' names.
The subject of names, she had just discovered, tended to have a sobering effect. In a strange way, it brought home the reality of her situation as nothing else had. It put a label on something that until now had not been totally real.
She was pregnant, and the baby's father wanted to marry her. Given that she loved the baby's father and he claimed to love her, it seemed that a decision would have to be made soon. Verity knew she wasn't going to be able to drag things out much longer.
It would have been nice, however, if Jonas had gotten around to thinking about marriage before he learned of the baby, Verity thought with a lingering sense of resentment. But perhaps Laura Griswald had been right when she pointed out that Verity hadn't done much to plant the concept of marriage in Jonas's brain.
Male brains, apparently, had to be carefully primed for certain subjects before they switched on and ran in the right direction.
And the truth was, Verity had never given much thought to marriage. Emerson Ames had taught her a great deal as he dragged her around the world, but he had never taught her that she needed a husband.
Verity had been happily becoming a successful, single career woman when Jonas Quarrel had arrived in her life.
If she was honest with herself, Verity thought, she would admit that Jonas wasn't the only one guilty of not bringing up the subject of marriage until faced with becoming a parent. She hadn't thought much about marriage either, until she had found herself pregnant.
Verity had just arrived at that distressingly honest realization when she heard Preston Yarwood's angry footsteps on the stone staircase. She looked toward the door of the salon and caught sight of him hunched deeply in his coat as he climbed the stairs. She glanced out the window and saw that a light mist was falling again. Little Miss Sunshine had apparently stayed outdoors to commune with nature.
Verity wondered uneasily if Yarwood had found out about Elyssa's attempt to seduce Jonas in the torture chamber.
She imagined how Jonas would react if he ever found himself in Yarwood's shoes. Not that she would ever be tempted to betray Jonas with another man, that wasn't the point. The point was that Jonas was possessive, aggressive, and protective. Verity knew that if she married him, she would have to accept and deal with those elements of his nature.
Verity didn't wonder about Elyssa again for several more minutes. She had gone back to her mystery and was deep in the middle of a convoluted conspiracy plot when her earrings suddenly felt warm against her skin.
Verity absently reached up to adjust them, wondering at the way the red crystal occasionally seemed to absorb and radiate back her own body heat. Crump had said something about that being a property of crystals.
A glance out the window showed that the mist had turned into a light rain. Elyssa must really be into the communing-with-nature bit.
Verity tried to go back to her book, but she found herself unable to concentrate on the intricate plot.
Restless, she wandered to the window to stare into the overgrown garden.
An overpowering urge to go outside for a few minutes gripped her. Irritated, Verity turned away from the window. This was ridiculous. The last thing she wanted to do was go outside into that cold afternoon rain. She'd already had her walk this morning.
But her craving for exercise was suddenly overwhelming. She had to take a walk. She was accustomed to working hard all day. This enforced relaxation was getting to her.
Apparently she didn't have any more sense than Elyssa, Verity thought as she went upstairs to get her parka. There must be something primeval and compelling about this Northwest rain.
A few minutes later she was huddling under the hood of her jacket, wondering if this sort of irrational behavior was common among expectant mothers. She headed automatically for the cliffs. It was miserably cold, she thought, not at all like Hawaii. If she had any brains she would go back inside to sit in front of the fire.
Verity reached the bluff overlooking the cove where she had seen the small boat earlier. She glanced down. The boat was still there, but something else was down there also. A bundle of white clothing lay sprawled half in and half out of the cold water. Verity would have recognized those white wool trousers anywhere.
It was Elyssa Warwick who lay there, her head barely above the water's edge. She wasn't moving.
Shocked, Verity realized that precious time would be lost if she ran back to the villa to find Jonas and the others. She immediately began to scramble awkwardly down the side of the short cliff. The most important thing was to get Elyssa out of the water. If she wasn't already dead, the real threat was hypothermia. The cold waters could drain a person's body heat in thirty minutes.
The task of getting down to the beach wasn't as difficult as Verity had anticipated. Adrenaline could accomplish a lot, she discovered as she half-slid, half-jumped down to the pebbly beach. She landed on her feet amid a scattering of small rocks and pine needles and raced over to where Elyssa lay. Verity crouched beside her and felt for the pulse in Elyssa's throat.
Little Miss Sunshine was alive. She moaned heavily when Verity began searching her for blood and broken bones. Elyssa's eyes fluttered.