"I know. Reforming Jonas has become your chief hobby. Lucky for you he doesn't take offense." Laura chuckled, well aware of her friend's opinion about using one's education and abilities. "When will Jonas and your father be back from their business trip?"

"Any day now." Verity drummed her fingers on the edge of the pool and ignored the unspoken questions in Laura's eyes. She could hardly explain that Emerson and Jonas had gone off to Mexico to rescue an old, highly disreputable family friend who had gotten himself kidnapped. Such friends did not reflect well on the family. She had told Laura that Jonas was simply helping Emerson settle a private business matter.

"I'm not sure how long the Warwicks will wait around for him," Laura said dubiously.

"If the Warwicks have a legitimate job for Jonas, I don't want to put them off by telling them I don't know when he'll be back. If the deal looks good, I'll have to find a way to keep them here. Why don't you send them over at lunchtime tomorrow, Laura. Tell them I'm in charge of booking Jonas's business arrangements or something."

Laura tilted her head. "Are you in charge of booking Jonas's business arrangements?"

Verity brightened. "As a matter of fact, I just appointed myself his business manager. Don't look at me like that, Laura. Nobody else is stepping forward to handle the job, least of all Jonas. Looks like it's up to me." She frowned intently, thinking quickly. "You know, with a little publicity work, this sort of thing could turn into a very lucrative sideline for Jonas. I know I'll never persuade him to go back to the academic world, but he could still use his abilities as a consultant for people like the Warwicks. Hey, that's it!"

"What's it?"

"We'll call Jonas a consultant. An historical consultant. How does that sound?"

"I can see the wheels turning in your head." Laura stood up. "Okay, I'll send 'em over tomorrow for lunch. I just hope Jonas doesn't have any objections when he gets home and finds out you've been booking 'consulting' assignments for him."

"I'll handle Jonas," Verity said with more assurance than she felt. "He'll just have to understand that I'm doing this for his own good. He's got far too fine a mind to be a dishwasher all his life. One day he'll thank me for this."

"If I were you, I'd think twice about forcing upward mobility on a perfectly good dishwasher-waiter-handyperson. It's hard to find reliable help these days. But far be it from me to spoil your fun."

"Fun?"

Laura grinned. "Don't play innocent with me. You and Jonas seem to understand each other perfectly.

You give orders, lecture him on self-improvement, and generally bully him until he's had enough. Then he puts his foot down and carries you off to bed just like he did last week. Clement, the bartender, and everyone else had a good laugh after you two left. Your father howled."

Verity's cheeks turned bright pink. She remembered the incident clearly. "That was so embarrassing. I could have killed Jonas."

It had all started when she had begun to nag Jonas about doing another journal article. Having just received the twenty copies she had ordered of the Journal of Renaissance Studies, Verity had decided she was on a roll. Convinced that important doors were opening for Jonas, she had pushed her luck—and Jonas—one step too far.

Jonas had tolerated her enthusiastic lectures all afternoon and into the evening. It wasn't until late that night, when they were having a nightcap with Laura and Rick in the resort's cocktail lounge, that he had finally lost his patience.

He'd listened to one more tirade on the importance of writing another article while he was still a hot literary property. Then he had taken Verity's glass of juice out of her hand, picked her up, and carried her all the way back to the cabin in that humiliating position. Then he'd made love to her until Verity had temporarily forgotten all about journal articles and self-improvement.

"It might have been embarrassing for you," Laura said, smiling, "but it certainly provided memorable entertainment for everyone in the lounge. Quite a show."

"Whose side are you on, anyway?" Verity glowered at her.

The amusement faded from Laura's eyes. "I'm on your side," she said with unexpected seriousness. "You know that, don't you? We're friends."

Verity smiled ruefully. "I know that."

"And speaking as your friend… "

Verity tilted her head. "Yeah, friend?"

"I'm not sure how to ask this, so I'll come right out with it. Is anything wrong, Verity?"

Verity stiffened. "Wrong?"

"You know. As in 'not quite right'? There's something a little different about you lately. As if you've got something on your mind. I just wondered if you've got problems. If so, you know you can tell sister Laura all about them."

Verity swept her hands back and forth just under the surface of the crystal-clear water. Small waves rippled out to the sides of the pool. "I know, Laura. And thanks. But nothing's wrong. Really. I've just been doing some thinking lately, that's all."

"Thinking about Jonas and the future?"

"Something like that."

"Well, it's about time. When are you going to marry the man, Verity?"

Verity's head came up with a snap. "I haven't been asked," she replied tartly.

"Since when does Verity Ames wait around for someone else, least of all a man, to make a major decision in her life?" Laura's mouth curved upward. "You don't fool me one bit. If you wanted to marry Jonas, you'd find a way to nag him into it."

"As you yourself have pointed out, Jonas can only be nagged so far," Verity retorted dryly.

"Maybe. But somehow I don't think he'd fight too hard if you tied him up and dragged him to the altar."

"Not exactly a romantic image."

"No smart woman lets romantic illusions get in the way once she's decided what she wants. And you're one smart woman, Verity. Ergo, I have to assume you haven't made up your mind about Jonas Quarrel.

So we're back to my original question. What's wrong, pal?"

Verity thought about the pregnancy-test kit she had surreptitiously examined and then put back on the shelf at the local pharmacy that afternoon. Then she remembered how casually Jonas had left for Mexico, carrying only a few changes of underwear and a wicked-looking knife that he knew how to use quite well.

"Nothing's wrong, Laura. I've just been feeling a little depressed lately. I think I need a vacation." She took one hand out of the water and picked up a glossy brochure. Water dripped on the photograph of the beachfront hotel. "Hawaii sounds nice."

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