Verity had closed her eyes and drifted off immediately, only to be awakened by Jonas's restless movements. She finally decided she'd had enough. Something was bothering him, and it was time to get it out into the open. She pushed back the cover and sat up against the pillows.

"Quit trying to pretend you're asleep, Jonas," she said gently. "Tell me what's wrong."

He lay still for a few seconds, then turned on his back. His eyes gleamed in the darkness. "I want another look at the manuscript in that damned vision," he admitted bluntly.

Verity took a deep breath. "I thought that might be it."

There was silence for a long moment, then Jonas said, "I don't know if we can do it without getting ourselves into the same mess we did earlier."

"This time we know what to expect. I can take the red crystal earrings with me again. I know how to use them this time if things get rough. As long as you don't pick up any of the ribbons, we'll be safe."

"I can't let you take the risk."

"You can't get another look at that vision without me." she pointed out calmly. "The ribbons would overwhelm you for certain." Her mind made up, she shoved aside the covers. "No sense putting it off.

We might as well get it over with." She pursed her lips in thought. "This time around we just have to keep in mind that we are watching a vision. We're not part of it. I'll know what I'm doing this time. I'll let go of the green crystal as soon as the image activates. I think I can use the earrings to keep things sane after that."

"It'll take time," Jonas said as he sat up. "That manuscript was in Latin, and written in sixteenth-century script. I need a close look at it. The problem with that vision is that it's so damn powerful. The risk is that it will distract us, make us think it's real again." He ran a hand through his hair. "Hell, I don't know, Verity. I shouldn't let you near that thing again. I shouldn't get near it myself."

Verity sat up on the edge of the bed. "But you won't be able to sleep at night until you try to read that manuscript. It's going to drive you nuts, Jonas. I don't think we have any choice."

Jonas shook his head. "I'm not sure I can let you take the risk."

Verity stood up and walked around to his side of the bed. "We have to, Jonas. This is your psychic talent we're talking about here. The more you learn about controlling it, the safer we'll both be and the more useful the talent will be. Who knows what you'll run up against next time in the corridor? We can do it. I know we can." She picked up the red crystal earrings. "The green crystal is still in that chamber.

In all the confusion, no one remembered it." She stepped into her shoes and started toward the tapestry.

"Verity, come back here," Jonas ordered harshly. He stood up abruptly. "I said come back here."

But Verity had already found the hidden mechanism that unlocked the entrance to the passageway. The ponderous stone door creaked and began to swing open. She picked up the flashlight and threw a challenging smile over her shoulder. "You're not going to let me go into that horrible passage alone, are you?"

"Jesus, Verity. You are one stubborn female." But Jonas was already sliding into his jeans.

She had known he wouldn't fight too hard to stop her. This had to be done and they both knew it. It would be impossible for Jonas to ignore secrets that had to do with his psychic talent. The more he understood it, the better off they both were, Verity told herself as she started down the dark passageway.

Jonas came up behind her and touched her shoulder. "I love you, you know."

"Good." She handed him the flashlight. "I love you, too."

"I figured as much. Otherwise, you wouldn't take another step in this damn passage. At least Digby's bones are gone now. Here, you hold this." He thrust a notebook and pen into her fingers. "I'll take the flashlight."

The door to the dark cell was open. Verity hadn't bothered to close it after she'd dragged Jonas and Preston out.

"There's the green crystal," Verity said as the flashlight beam swung across the stone floor. "And there's the sword hilt. Are you ready?"

"As ready as I'll ever be. Stay close beside me after we're in the corridor. Last time we both got too near the image. It was one of the reasons we seemed to get sucked into it so easily."

"You'll have to be close to the vision to read the manuscript, and we'll probably have to watch the thing recycle several times. I'll take notes while you read aloud."

"If I give the order to get out, I don't want any arguments."

"You won't get any," she assured him. She picked up the green crystal. "Funny, it doesn't seem to be vibrating the way it was before. And the earrings don't feel hot, either."

"We'll see what happens. Hang on, here we go." Jonas bent down and picked up the broken sword hilt.

Nothing happened.

Verity had tensed herself for the transition into the psychic corridor. It took her a few seconds to realize that the walls of the cell weren't curving around her.

"Jonas?"

There was a stunned silence from Jonas. She could see his taut features in the harsh glow of the flashlight. His golden eyes blazed at her.

"Jonas, what's wrong?" she whispered.

"It's gone." His voice was hoarse with bewildered frustration.

"What's gone?"

"My talent. I'm empty inside. I can't pick up a damned thing. Not one damned vibration. Whatever happened in here this afternoon has burned out my talent."

Chapter Nineteen

A week after their return to Sequence Springs, Verity was closer to despair than she had ever been in her life. Everything had changed between her and Jonas. There was no more talk of marriage. No more planning for the baby. No more teasing, or squabbling, or joyous making up in bed. It wasn't that Jonas didn't touch her in bed. He did, but his lovemaking had undergone a critical change.

Verity sensed a fierce desperation in him instead of the many levels of passion she had come to expect in recent months. It seemed he was trying to prove something, but she didn't know what it was.

The loss of his talent had hit him hard, Verity knew. She had tried to ignore it, tried to pretend there was nothing wrong, that his psychic ability would return soon. But Jonas had convinced himself that it was gone for good, and Verity secretly wondered if he was right.

If his talent had been burned out of him, where did that leave her?

She began to grow more and more anxious as Jonas retreated behind a wall of deepening silence.

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