Once in awhile, a woman must fight… Widowed at age twenty-one, when her husband was killed while captaining a whaler, Eleanor Rayburn is left homeless and penniless. She is dismayed to learn that before his death her husband had sold his shares in the ship. In her search for the company that now controls the whaler, she encounters the handsome and arrogant owner, a man with a flagrant dragon tattooed on his torso, who greets her with cold disdain.
And a man must win… Dante Templeton, a marine naturalist, charms women easily but cares for none. He and his older brother were abandoned as infants and raised in an orphanage before they joined Captain Rayburn's crew. Onboard the St. Louis, Dante suffered regular whippings and his brother was lost at sea—an accident for which Dante blamed the ship's cruel captain. Now, twenty years later, when his enemy's widow comes looking for the return of her husband's ship, he impedes her at every turn, determined that her ship will never hunt whales again.
But circumstances throw Eleanor and Dante together. The handsome, tattooed naturalist and the seemingly plain, intelligent widow cannot deny their fiery attraction. Although Dante knows a secret about Eleanor's late husband that would certainly hurt her, he now realized that to destroy this vibrant, passionate woman would mean destroying himself.
He was a carnal man. Sleek. Polished. Every movement, every word, every look was drenched with an animal heat that made a woman weak. The way he looked at her, his eyelids heavy and sensual as he slowly moved his gaze over her, resting at places no decent man would. The way he walked toward her, all loose limbed and dangerous. Then he stood before her, the unasked question in the lift of one raven-wing eyebrow. His voice was the final seduction, for when he was in the mood, the words oozed out like warm honey, making a woman’s blood thicken and her skin come alive. He was both wild and tame, and no woman on earth could refuse him.
He was a magician of sorts. He could walk into a ballroom and turn the head of every woman there, any age, any social standing. And when the last song had played, every lady went home to dream of him.
It was his indifference that drew both men and women to him, for each wanted to believe they would be the first to charm him. Coax him to put money into a failing business. Lure him into an affair. Few realized that Dante could not be bought—or enticed. Fewer yet knew that he had little respect for most men, finding them braggarts and bores. And to him, women were a nuisance. A hazard to be avoided. A complete and total waste of time, for anything other than his animal needs.
The woman, his current mistress, studied him as he read the newspaper, his rich black hair falling forward to cover part of his face. His arms were thick, the muscles sculpted beneath his bronzed skin, the veins standing out like rivers of granite. He had beautiful hands, large with square palms. His fingers were long and strong, yet the power in his touch could be gentle and seductive when he wanted it to be.
She looked at the strange tattoos that covered his body. Only those who knew him as intimately as she did would ever know they were there.
She had hated them at first—the coiled snake, the soaring hawk, the masterful ship with the skull and crossbones banner on the mast.
The largest one was a green and yellow dragon with nostrils that licked flames up Dante’s neck. It covered his chest and stomach. Once she had seen that enormous, fierce looking dragon, the other tattoos were nothing. Beneath it was a mass of whip-like scars that looked like part of the dragon’s corded skin. She had traced those scars many times with her fingers and her tongue. When she had asked how he had gotten them, she had been met with a taciturn, icy stare. She had never asked again.
He was still reading, ignoring her. She wondered if he remembered she was in his bed.
Her gaze wandered to the far wall, which displayed one of his many collections of erotic art. Every woman she knew and most men as well would blush at what Dante considered art. He had a fine, rosewood corner cupboard with glass doors that held Greek and Roman objects d’art, all of which were, as far as she was concerned, lewd and immoral. But that was exactly what excited her.