Jonas exploded. He halted and swung around to face her. " Just because I'm not the man I once was, damn you."
Verity stared at him, her eyes wide with amazement. "Not the man you once were? Oh my, Jonas. Oh, Jonas." She started to giggle. She clapped a palm over her mouth, trying to restrain herself. But she knew her eyes were reflecting her mirth. "Not the man you once were? Jonas, that's priceless. You make it sound like you've been castrated or something. Not the man you once were. Incredible. I can't believe I'm hearing this. Here I've been tiptoeing around all week thinking you were getting ready to leave me, and all along you were thinking I no longer wanted to marry you because you're not the man you once were. What a pair of fools."
"Why the hell would I leave you?" He searched her face and then caught hold of her shoulders and shook her gently. " Tell me, Verity. Why would I leave?"
"Because you don't need me anymore," she explained, her humor fading quickly. She met his eyes.
"Jonas, look at this from my point of view. You came to me in the first place because you needed me as a psychic anchor. Whenever I tried to pin you down about whether you loved me or just felt tied to me because of the psychic connection, you laughed off my fears. You told me there was no need to make a distinction between the two bonds. But now one of those bonds is gone, and I have no way of knowing how strong the other one is when it has to stand alone."
"Jesus, honey, I didn't realize." He wrapped her close and buried his face in her hair. "I've been going through the same thing from the other direction. I knew I'd used the psychic link to hold you and I was scared that once it was gone, you'd feel different about marrying me. When you started treating me strangely, I was convinced you'd changed your mind. I couldn't figure out what the hell was going on.
You haven't nagged me once since we got back from that goddamned island."
Verity's head came up so quickly she caught his chin. There was a soft crack but she ignored his grimace of pain. Her eyes sparkled with indignation and relief. "So much for treating you with kid gloves. I was trying to be sweet and understanding. I decided you probably had some major adjustments to make. I didn't know how you were going to respond to the loss of your psychic ability. I didn't want to nag you or push you in any way. But I've been going quietly crazy, Jonas."
"Honey, the minute you stopped chewing my ass I knew I was in deep trouble." He rubbed his injured jaw.
"The minute you stopped deliberately provoking me every chance you got, I knew I was in real trouble."
He caught her face between his palms. "You're right. We've been a pair of idiots. Not for the first time, and probably not for the last. But I swear to you that I love you with all my heart. Nothing will ever change that. The way I feel about you doesn't depend on the psychic connection. If I didn't know it for certain before, I've sure as hell learned it the hard way this past week. You wanted me to be able to distinguish between the psychic bond and the bond of love. Well, I can, believe me. I don't ever want to have to go through that particular hell again."
Verity's hands rose to grasp his wrists. She smiled up at him with all the love in her heart. "Does this mean you're going to make an honest woman of me after all?"
He grinned. "It sure as hell does. Just as soon as we can get a ring and a license."
"And a dress," Verity reminded him. "Don't forget the dress."
He looked down at her gently curved stomach. The top button of her jeans was unsnapped. "Like I said, we'd better hurry."
"Hey!" Emerson's voice boomed from the lobby entrance. "You two get things settled out here? Christ, it's a little cold to be standing around outside, isn't it? Not good for a pregnant lady."
Verity groaned at the sound of her father's voice. She buried her nose against Jonas's jacket. "What in the world has gotten into him? Everybody in the resort must know what's going on by now. It's embarrassing."
Jonas chuckled. "So what else is new?" He gazed at his future father-in-law over the top of Verity's red curls. "Don't sweat it, Emerson. You won't need the shotgun."
"Glad to hear it. Figured you two had just gotten your wires crossed. All you needed was a little push to get 'em straightened out."
"Knock it off, Ames. No one's going to give you any credit for straightening this out. Verity and I took care of it all by ourselves. Go have another drink. You've had a long trip."
"Where are you going?" Emerson demanded.
"Home." Jonas caught hold of Verity's arm and led her toward the path that wound through the trees to the cottage.
Behind them Emerson grinned in satisfaction. Then he swung around and started for the bar. "Clement, my man," he called to the bartender. "The announcement is official. My daughter says she's actually going to marry him. Break out your best vodka. The Russian stuff."
"Why bother?" Clement said with a slow grin. "All vodka tastes the same."
"In a pig's eye." Emerson sat down on a stool. "Let's get the Griswalds in here, and you'd better call the rest of the resort staff. It's pay-off time."
"If Jonas ever finds out you've been running a pool to guess the day he and Verity announced they were engaged, he'll skin you alive, Ames."
Emerson looked offended. "Just a friendly little game of chance, that's all it was."
"I suppose now we'll all get suckered into a 'guess the date the baby arrives' pool," Rick Griswald said from the doorway.
Emerson smiled broadly. "Hell of an idea. Now why didn't I think of that?"
"What is it, love?" Jonas sucked one of Verity's ni**les between his teeth and bit down very gently. He felt the little tremor go through her and was satisfied. He was taking his time making love to her tonight. It had been a long week. True, he'd taken her to bed often enough during the past few days, but he hadn't been able to relax and enjoy it.
For the past week he'd been driven, desperate, obsessed with the idea that he might be able to make her stay with him if he kept reinforcing the sexual bond. Tonight he wanted to indulge himself in the luxury of making love to his future bride without worrying about when she would kick him out.
"We should have talked more about it right after it happened." Verity's fingers curled in his hair as he dropped a warm kiss in the hollow between her br**sts.
"After what happened?"
"After the experience you went through in the hidden chamber. Our mistake was in not discussing it. I know it bothered you a lot to find out you didn't have the talent any longer, but I didn't want to raise the issue until you were ready. I kept waiting for you to open up and tell me how you felt."