Authors: Day Leclaire,Day Leclaire
Take this woman.
Make her yours.
Without hesitation, he approached her, compelled to obey. She stood in the three-story entryway of the office building, absorbing the elegant décor. Sunlight streamed through the tinted windows, capturing her in its golden embrace. It plunged into hair of so deep an ebony that it rivaled the nighttime sky, even as it turned her complexion to pure cream. It took every ounce of self-control Marco had to keep from sweeping her into his arms and carrying her off.
God help him, but he wanted her….
Have you ever been desperate? I mean truly desperate. Your heart’s desire hovers in front of you, bright and shiny and tantalizing. But you can’t reach it because your path is blocked by seemingly insurmountable obstacles. What do you do? Do you give up…or do you try every means at your disposal to attain your dream?
Most of us have experienced that situation at some point in our lives. I have with my career, and in my personal life. I wanted to be a writer more than anything, and I was willing to do whatever it took to accomplish my goal. There were endless obstacles, but I didn’t care. None seemed impossible to overcome—at least, not to me. One of my happiest days was when I finally attained my dream, and received that incredible call from my brand-new editor, telling me I’d sold my first book.
Dante’s Stolen Wife
, Marco Dante experiences that desperate desire, only it’s for a woman—a woman who belongs to his twin brother. And Marco will overcome any obstacles, do whatever it takes, to have the woman he loves. This is one of my favorite stories ever. I love the idea of a man pushed to the limit. A man forced to make outrageous choices and then deal with the consequences of his actions. And I love writing about a man who will risk all to win the love of his soul mate.
So what obstacles stand in your way…and what are you willing to do to overcome them and attain your heart’s desire? Will you give up? Or will you fight…and win?
Here’s to your success,
The Forbidden Princess
The Prince’s Mistress
The Royal Wedding Night
The Billionaire’s Baby Negotiation
Dante’s Blackmailed Bride
(Severo & Francesca’s story)
Dante’s Stolen Wife
(Marco & Caitlyn’s story)
Described by Harlequin Books as “one of our most popular writers ever!” Day’s tremendous worldwide popularity has made her a member of Harlequin’s prestigious Five Star Club, with sales
totaling more than five million books. She is a three-time winner of both the Colorado Award of Excellence and the Golden Quill Award. She’s won Romantic Times BOOKreviews Career Achievement and Love and Laughter awards, the Holt Medallion, a Booksellers Best Award and has received an impressive ten nominations for the prestigious Romance Writers of America RITA® Award. Day’s romances touch the heart and make you care about her characters as much as she does. In Day’s own words, “I adore writing romances, and can’t think of a better way to spend each day.” For more information, visit Day on her Web site at www.dayleclaire.com.
To Danielle Andre, who knows all about chasing her dreams.
m warning you, Marco. No more scandals. If your family continues to be featured in the gossip magazines, we will have no choice but to place our account elsewhere. The reports have carried all the way to Italy. I even caught Ariana reading them. My own daughter!”
Marco Dante inclined his head. “I understand, Vittorio. We don’t know why
has embarked on this campaign against Dantes. But I promise you, I plan to put an end to it, no matter what it takes. You and my father were good friends. We appreciated your business when he ran our jewelry business, and now that we’re moving back into the European market, we hope to have your patronage once again.”
Vittorio gave an expressive shrug to accompany his expression of vague regret. “I’d enjoy seeing the names of Dante and Romano mated once more. But we’re extremely private people. We choose our associates with great care.” He deliberately switched to Italian to add weight to his words. “If you wish to have our support for your European expansion, you must take care of this problem.”
Marco nodded. Unfortunately, they’d lost the Romanos’ backing years ago, shortly after his father’s death. At that time, Dantes teetered on the brink of ruin, and would have gone under if not for Marco’s brother, Severo, who’d assumed the reins of the family jewelry empire straight out of college. During his first year on the job, he’d been forced to scale back on the size of the business, stripping Dantes to the bone.
Little by little over the past decade, under Sev’s brilliant direction, Dantes had made an impressive resurrection and now stood on the verge of regaining their place as the premier jewelers, worldwide. At least they would if they recovered the European trade they’d lost. And Marco planned to make certain that happened.
It was imperative to their success that they return the Romanos to the fold, something he’d worked tirelessly on for the past year. And it was all due to a single ancient expression, one that had floated around the most elite circles for countless generations—
Where the Romanos lead, Europe follows.
The Romanos were considered Italian royalty and Marco intended to have Europe follow Vittorio and Ariana straight to Dantes’ front door. And now that possibility hovered within reach.
The Romanos craved the glorious designs Dantes offered, designs that featured only the finest stones available, including the fire diamonds that could be found nowhere else in the world other than in one of Dantes’ display cases. But the Romanos wanted them without any unsavory scandal attached. Thanks to the type of gossip
liked to dish on a weekly basis—as well as their current focus on the four Dante brothers—Marco had reached an impasse with Vittorio Romano.
It was an impasse Marco planned to overcome, no matter what it took. He clapped Vittorio on the shoulder. “Consider it done. We’ll deal with
, after which we look forward to providing for your every need.” He held out his hand. “Thank you for coming all the way to San Francisco. I’m sorry Ariana didn’t accompany you on this trip. My family would have enjoyed meeting her.”
Vittorio grinned. “She is lovely, my Ariana, is she not?” He returned Marco’s handshake. “Next time I am in San Francisco I will insist she come with me.”
“We’ll make it a family affair.”
. I look forward to it. I understand Severo just became engaged to that new designer you recently acquired. Francesca Sommers? Please offer the couple my warmest congratulations.”
With that, Vittorio walked briskly toward the huge etched glass doors that graced the entryway of the Dantes San Francisco offices, and held one open for a woman entering the building. He offered her a courtly nod and a smile of pure masculine appreciation, before exiting. Not that Marco noticed Vittorio’s departure. The instant he set eyes on the woman, he paused, riveted. Every thought vanished from his head, replaced by a whispered demand unlike any he’d ever experienced before.
Take this woman
Make her yours.
Without hesitation, he approached, compelled to obey. She stood in the three-story entryway, absorbing the elegant decor. Sunlight streamed through the tinted windows, capturing her within its golden embrace. It plunged into hair so deep an ebony that it rivaled the nighttime sky, while turning her complexion to pure cream. She tipped her head back to look at the glass sculpture hanging above the receptionist’s desk, a sculpture that resembled leaping flames, and her hair sheeted down her back in heavy waves. It took every ounce of self-control Marco possessed to keep from sweeping her into his arms and carrying her off.
She walked up to the receptionist and he caught the murmur of her voice asking for information. The man behind the desk glanced at Marco, frowned in momentary confusion—no doubt trying to decide which twin he was, something that amused Marco no end—then pointed in his direction. With a nod of thanks, the woman approached and Marco smiled in open delight. At his smile, the receptionist made a frantic effort to catch the woman’s attention, before giving up with a shrug.
Marco only had eyes for the woman. God help him, but he wanted her. It was as though someone had delved deep into his mind and plucked loose his personal image of perfection, then created this glorious example of femininity from that image. She stood at the exact right kissing height, not too short, nor too tall, with a full, smiling mouth he couldn’t wait to explore. Her features were delicate and ivory pale, with a straight, no-nonsense nose, determined jawline and high, arching cheekbones that lifted her from beauty to sheer poetry.
His gaze dipped lower and his forward momentum faltered. She was dressed for business, but no fabric existed that could conceal a body created for the pleasures of the night. Full breasts strained against her crisp, tailored navy suit, and some kind soul had designed the jacket so that it nipped in at a waist he could have spanned with two hands before flirting with the curves below—tight round curves that were the devil’s own temptation.
He must have made some sound—a groan, if he were a betting man—because she studied him curiously. Her eyes were a deep teal blue and made a striking contrast to her dark hair. Before he could introduce himself, she stuck out her hand. “Ah, Mr. Dante,” she said. “Just the man I was looking for. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you. I’m Caitlyn Vaughn.”
She said it as though he should recognize her name, but he couldn’t recall ever having heard of her before, maybe because in the last sixty seconds every single one of his brain cells had leaked out of his ears. Not that he’d admit his foolishness. “Of course,” he said with his most charming smile. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, as well.”
He took the hand she offered, and that’s when it happened. A hard jolt of electricity zapped him, sinking deep into muscle and bone. He’d never felt anything like it. It didn’t hurt, precisely, just surprised and shocked. Based on Caitlyn’s startled expression and the way she jerked free of his hold, she must have felt it, as well…and didn’t like it.
“Oh! What was that?” she asked.
“I’m not certain.”
But he suspected he knew. Based on his reaction toward Caitlyn, as well as what his eldest brother, Sev, had described, this must be The Inferno. Such an odd Dante blessing—or was it a curse?—that irrevocably bound the men in his family with their true soul mates, the one and only woman they would ever love. Marco and his brothers had believed the story to be a charming family fairy tale. But ever since Sev had encountered the unremitting burn of its existence, Marco wondered if he would experience it. Wondered if he were capable of experiencing it.
He was a man who adored women. All women. He loved everything about them. The unending glorious shapes and sizes. The delightful palate of hues. The music of feminine voices. Their unique scent. As far as he was concerned, women were as beautiful as they were fascinating and he delighted in each and every one. The idea of choosing one specific flower, instead of the bounty nature offered struck him as unreasonable. And yet…
When he looked at Caitlyn, he saw a woman who was a bounty in and of herself, a bouquet of such depth and beauty that it would take the rest of his life to fully explore each and every aspect. Where hardheaded Sev fought, where the accountant soul in his twin brother Lazzaro questioned and analyzed, where problem-solver Nicolò flat-out denied, the romantic in Marco accepted. He’d take this gift from the gods.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” he told her.
He’d been waiting for her? Caitlyn stared at Lazzaro Dante as though hypnotized, struggling to get some part of her, any part of her, functioning again after that peculiar handshake and her even more peculiar reaction to it.
During her job interview to be the new head of finance for the national branch of Dantes, Lazz had been pointed out to her. He was in charge of the international end of the business, a far larger, more complicated department. And though she wouldn’t work directly with him, they would come into regular contact during the course of their workday. She’d been told she’d be introduced to him directly after she arrived at Dantes, but it never occurred to her that he’d be waiting for her in the lobby, until the receptionist had pointed him out.
“It really is kind of you to meet me here on my first day, Mr. Dante, but—” The shock she experienced when they first shook hands continued to tickle her palm and she rubbed her thumb across it. To her amusement he copied the gesture, distracting her. “Okay, I have to know. What was that?”
He eyed her sympathetically. “Did I hurt you, cara? I am sorry.”
“Hurt me? Oh, no…not really.” That surprised her, given the intensity of the shock. “It was just…unexpected.”
Worse, though it seemed a ridiculous concept, that shock seemed to have intensified her awareness of him. When she’d first seen him last week after her final interview, she’d have described Lazz as incredibly attractive, almost too good-looking for a woman’s peace of mind. But now…A slight panic stole over her. Somehow, with that single touch, she became keenly aware of him and the startling congruity that formed between them. It felt as though a light switch had been flipped, igniting thoughts and emotions she’d never experienced before. She didn’t understand it, didn’t want to understand it.
In all her twenty-eight years, she’d never done anything to jeopardize her professional career. How many times had Gran warned her about that? How many times had her grandmother used her own life as a hard-won lesson? Caitlyn understood the cardinal rules, had learned them well. Don’t let a man charm you into ruining your career for a brief ride over the rainbow. Because all that waited on the other side was fool’s gold. And build a strong foundation with a serious-minded man capable of staying power, who believed in the same things you did. Well, she’d listened and learned. She wouldn’t allow any man to take her for a ride. And yet…
Their surroundings seemed to melt away, and the noises faded to a soft murmur. The light appeared to dim until only the two of them were caught within the sun’s halo. Every beat of her heart sent desire coursing deeper and more powerfully through her veins until the sheer want of him overrode every other thought and emotion.
“Caitlyn,” he murmured.
Her name on his tongue made her think of wine and poetry, and though he didn’t have an accent, his voice contained a noticeable Mediterranean lilt, deep and ripe and musical. He held out his hand and almost—almost—she took it, willing to follow wherever he led and tumble into bliss with him wherever and whenever he suggested, even right here and right now.
Instead she used whatever final scrap of common sense she still possessed and made a production of checking her watch. “I’m due in personnel in five minutes.” Instinctively she moved to extend her hand again in a businesslike parting, but withdrew it quickly, and took several steps toward the elevator. Some irresistible compulsion had her turn and offer a final nod of farewell. “I’ll see you soon, Mr. Dante. I believe we have an appointment scheduled for ten.”
At that, a blinding smile lit his face. “I didn’t realize. My assistant neglected to mention it.” He advanced in her direction. “But, why wait? Why not move our appointment forward?”
The elevator doors opened just then and she didn’t dare linger or she’d cave to his request. Heaven only knew what would happen between them if she did. Good Lord! On her first day of work, no less. “Ten o’clock,” she repeated. “I look forward to seeing you then.”
She darted inside the car, fighting to maintain a calm expression while the doors whisked silently closed. To her relief Lazz didn’t give chase but stood perfectly still, his features carved into lines of determination as he watched her retreat. Because that’s what it was, a full-scale, tail-turning, white-flag-flying, unabashed retreat.
The instant the doors shut, she leaned against the back wall and closed her eyes. She hadn’t been in the building for a full thirty seconds and look at how much she’d already risked as a result of a single, casual handshake. What in the world had gotten into her? For that matter, what had gotten into Lazzaro Dante? Whatever had just happened between them, from this minute on, she needed to put such foolishness aside and focus on work.
Thirty minutes later, she realized that not only couldn’t she forget, but it had become an absolute impossibility. Something about that single touch had changed her. Caitlyn struggled to concentrate on the reams of HR paperwork to be filled out and the workaday tour of facilities, trying to convince herself that vital information was being given. But with every minute that passed, she grew more and more tense, knowing she’d soon see Lazz and find out if she’d imagined her reaction to him.
When the moment finally arrived, she greeted him with a professional demeanor, meant to conceal her nervousness. “So, we meet again.” She caught the faintest hitch in his step and a tiny frown formed between his hazel eyes before he held out his hand, a hand she eyed with undisguised apprehension. “That’s brave of you, after what happened last time. But if you’re game, so am I.”