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Page 76

"Hey, I'm here, sweetheart. Take it easy."

She threw herself across him, gathering him into her arms as best she could. "I was so worried. We've all been worried. You've been unconscious for hours. What's the matter with you?"

"Nothing's the matter, as far as I know." Her cheeks were wet. She had been crying over him, he realized in wonder. He felt her soft br**sts pleasantly pressed against his chest and realized for the first time that he was lying on a bed. He put an arm around Verity, twisting his fingers in her fiery curls. Then he found himself staring at her hair and remembering another source of fire. His hand clenched abruptly.

"Verity?" he got out in a husky voice.

She lifted her head, smiling her most dazzling smile of relief and welcome. She dashed a hand across her eyes to wipe away the tears. "You're sure you're okay?"

He stared into her anxious face. "I'm all right. But what about you?"

"I'm fine if you forget the fact that you've just given me the biggest scare of my life." She sat up on the edge of the bed. "Honestly, Jonas, how could you just pass out on me like that? Do you have any idea how hard it was to drag you down that corridor? I had to get a sheet and roll you onto it before I could even budge you. The sheet is ruined, naturally."

"Naturally." He just kept staring at her, bemused but content for the moment.

"Then, after I made sure you were alive, I had to go back to that awful room and drag Preston out on another sheet. He was unconscious too, and he weighed a ton. My arms are still sore. I feel like I've been doing pushups for days."

"Yarwood's alive?" Jonas struggled to make sense of the running commentary.

"Barely. Oliver says he thinks he'll live. Yarwood and poor Maggie are both in the hospital. Doug took them over to the main island a couple of hours ago. He should be back soon and he'll probably be bringing the police with him. It's all a huge mess."

Jonas opened his mouth to ask another question but before he could get the words out a familiar face loomed into view.

"Welcome back, Quarrel," Oliver Crump said. "We weren't sure where you'd gone. Doug thought we should send you to the hospital with the others, but Verity and I decided against that."

"We didn't think a doctor would have any more idea of how to treat you than we did," Verity said bluntly. "We couldn't even figure out how to explain the situation to a doctor. So we kept you here while Doug took the others away. Oliver has been working the crystal." She held up a shard of glittering lemon-colored crystal.

"From what Verity told me, I figured that crystals had caused the problem in the first place," Oliver explained.

"Probably some complicated side effect of the tuning process. She couldn't really explain what had happened in that room, but I figured that logically speaking, crystal could be used to undo the damage.

But can you imagine trying to get that concept across to an emergency room physician?"

"Suckers would have locked you and Verity in padded cells while they stuck needles into me." Jonas groaned and tentatively massaged his temples. He had a headache, but that seemed a small price to pay, all things considered. "Thanks for making the executive decision to keep me here. I hate emergency rooms. Those places are full of germs. Take a risk every time you go in one."

Verity's brows drew together in a firm line. "Are you sure you feel all right?"

He gave her his most effective sympathy-getting smile, the one that implied he was suffering nobly. Verity usually fell for it. "Head hurts a little, but that's about it."

"Oh, poor Jonas." Verity leaned forward and began gently to massage his temples.

She smelled good as she leaned over him—a little feminine sweat mixed with the wonderfully familiar fragrance that was hers, and hers alone. Jonas inhaled deeply. "How's Maggie?"

"She was coming around as we loaded her into the launch," Crump said. "Elyssa is going to be all right, by the way. She woke up last night and remembered who had pushed her."

"You'll never believe this, Jonas, but Maggie was the one who pushed Elyssa off that cliff," Verity said.

"Maggie pushed her?" Jonas was startled. Then it started to make sense. "Because of the plans to sell the villa?"

Verity nodded. "She was very upset about Doug's decision to sell. Maggie considered this place her home, and she thought she had a right to stay here. She followed Elyssa out to the cliffs yesterday to see if she could persuade Elyssa to talk Doug out of the deal, but Elyssa was not in a conversational mood, apparently. They got into an argument, and Maggie lost her temper and struck Elyssa. Elyssa lost her balance and went over the edge. Maggie panicked and ran back to the house."

"Did Maggie ever realize the significance of the green crystal necklace she wore all the time?" Jonas asked.

"She knew it had been important to Hazelhurst, so from a sentimental point of view it was important to her. But she never knew it was the key to the treasure. She didn't really believe there was a treasure,"

Crump said. "She was tolerant of Hazelhurst's search because she loved him. She considered the treasure hunt his hobby, that's all."

"Hazelhurst probably thought the necklace would be safe with her. No one would think anything of an old necklace worn by his housekeeper," Verity mused.

Jonas nodded, then winced when his head began to throb. "Spencer was the grad student who weaseled his way into Hazelhurst's life a couple of years ago. When Hazelhurst decided that Slade was nothing but a tacky treasure hunter, not a genuine scholar, he kicked him out on his ass. But Spencer was hooked on finding the treasure. He sneaked back several times. One night he discovered Hazelhurst going into the tunnel and he followed him to the treasure room. There was a fight, and Spencer must have chased Hazelhurst down the hall to the bedroom exit. He killed him with the stiletto that had been left behind in the chamber. Then he gathered up all that remained of the treasure, which consisted of a ruby ring, and fled. On the way out the door, he remembered the diary, I guess. He tore out the last few pages, the ones he figured might mention him or the hidden passageway."

"But he'd left a body behind in that hidden passage."

Crump said. "I talked to him a while ago. He was never mentally stable, but after Hazelhurst's murder he really started to come apart. He's been quietly going crazy during the past two years, sinking deeper into drugs and paranoia. He was terrified his crime would eventually be discovered. It was all he could think about—it obsessed him."

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