Verity felt the cold stone under her palm. Her eyes were wide open but she might as well have been blind. There was simply no light, no light at all.

She fought a severe attack of claustrophobia as she started to slowly, cautiously retrace her steps.

Maggie was trapped in here with her, and the poor woman might very well be dying. It seemed to take forever before she stumbled over Maggie's inert frame.

"I'm sorry, Maggie." Her apology went unheard. The housekeeper was still unconscious. Verity fumbled in the darkness and located her head wound. It was hard to tell but it seemed to Verity that it wasn't leaking blood at a rapid rate. Just a slow oozing.

Verity eased the woman's head back down on the cold stone and straightened in the darkness. She had to get them out of here. She could only pray that when she finally got the stone door open, Slade Spencer would not be waiting in the torture chamber.

But it seemed most likely that he would have fled after sealing his victims inside the tunnel. He probably assumed that Maggie was dead and that Verity wouldn't know how to unlock the door.

As a matter of fact, Verity realized she didn't know how to unlock the door. She struggled to control the fear that threatened to swamp her there in the darkness. Closing her eyes, she tried to envision the movements Jonas had made when he'd opened this door.

The joyous relief Verity experienced when her searching fingers found the mechanism was instantly shattered when she tried to operate it. Nothing happened, nothing at all.

After several minutes of futile effort, Verity had to face the fact that she was either doing something wrong with the ancient mechanism, or Slade had jammed the lock from the other side.

Verity's palms were damp and she began to shiver. The passageway had never felt so cold. She forced herself to think logically.

If she couldn't escape through this entrance, she would have to try the one that opened onto the bedroom.

Verity knelt beside Maggie. "Maggie? Can you hear me?" There was no response. Verity kept talking in a reassuring voice. "I know of another way out. It will take me a while, but I'll find it. When I do I'll get help. Hold on, Maggie. Just hang in there until I get back, okay?"

Verity got to her feet again and started resolutely down the passageway. It was going to be a very long walk. When she stumbled across Digby Hazelhurst's bones, she would know she was in the right vicinity.

Verity wished that the mental link she shared with Jonas was useful, like telepathy, instead of the more esoteric connection they shared. She would do anything to be able to contact him right this minute to warn him about Spencer.

She would also have taken the opportunity to inform him that he'd been right in the beginning—the psychic-consulting business definitely sucked.

The boat was gone. Jonas stood on the edge of the cliff looking down into the cove where Verity had found Elyssa. He had his hands thrust deep in his pockets as a defense against the cold, driving wind.

There were serious white-caps on the water and the rain came in whiplike gusts. There was just enough gray light to see the rough beach.

There was no way that any sane boater would have risked taking a small craft into the teeth of this storm. Not unless it was a matter of life and death. And even then, Jonas thought grimly, if he were the guy with the boat, he would have looked for other alternatives.

He was willing to bet that the boat and its owner were still somewhere on the island.

Jonas raised his head and studied the cliffs. There were plenty of nooks and crannies around the island shoreline where a small craft could be hidden. If someone had simply wanted to get the boat out of sight, the obvious thing would be to move the craft to another location.

Given the ferocious weather, a man wouldn't have wanted to spend too long at the task of moving the boat. He would have made the move quickly and then gotten back to the shelter of the villa.

Which meant that, logically, the boat had to be nearby.

Jonas started pacing along the top of the cliffs, studying the shoreline carefully. In this pale dawn light it would be easy to miss a small gray boat.

Fifteen minutes later he found it in a tiny cove that was even smaller than the first. The boat had been hurriedly tied to an overhanging fir branch. It was tossing wildly about on the angry, choppy waves that lapped the rocky shore.

It didn't take long to scramble down the short cliff to the beach. Jonas climbed over a pile of rocks to grab the line that held the boat, a moment later stepping into the violently bobbing craft. A spray of cold water caught him as he leaned down to open a locker.

As Verity had said, there was nothing useful in the way of identification in the first locker. Hunched into his fleece-lined jacket, Jonas quickly opened another.

He found a life vest stamped property of dream harbor marina. A set of boating instructions was crumpled up next to the life vest.

So much for easy identification. The boat had been rented. There was no way to trace it until the storm cleared and he could get off the island. Even if he tracked down the owner of Dream Harbor Marina, it might lead nowhere. It was easy enough to lie on a rental application.

Jonas closed the lid of the locker and studied the bottom of the boat. There was a fair amount of rainwater slopping back and forth around his feet. He spotted a small, crumpled bag floating in one corner. On a hunch he picked it up and glanced inside. A wet piece of paper lay on the bottom of the sack, a receipt from a California pharmacy.

Jonas suddenly remembered Slade Spencer popping pills from a small bottle with a prescription label on it.

"Jesus H. Christ, talk about stupid." Jonas leaped out of the boat. He balanced on the slippery rocks with unconscious ease, jumping from one to another until he was on the beach. Then he loped up the short cliff and headed back toward the villa at a run.

He had not used the flashlight except to explore the interior of the boat locker. No need to take a chance that someone looking out a window might spot him leaving or returning to the villa.

But someone else leaving the villa was not being nearly as cautious.

A narrow beam of light bounced through the trees, moving in Jonas's direction. The erratic movement of the light indicated that whoever was holding the flashlight was running at a breakneck pace.

Jonas stopped and moved out of the way. The weak dawn light had not yet penetrated the heavy branches overhead. It would be easy to stay hidden in the shelter of the trees until he caught a glimpse of whoever was running toward the cliffs.

It had to be Spencer, Jonas thought. No one else would know where the boat was now except the man who had moved it last night. But why the sudden rush? Spencer had been lolling around in what had appeared to be an alcoholic haze for days.

Tags: Jayne Ann Krentz Gift Suspense