Newly-wed, Lady Rhea Claire and Dante Leighton must return to England, where their reception is anything but warm.Now armed with wealth and power, Dante is a target for the murderous smugglers who despoiled his family home, while Rhea’s father, the powerful Duke of Camareigh, vehemently rejects their marriage.The two lovers thought themselves invincible together. But in the riveting conclusion of McBain’s epic trilogy, Dante’s determination to reclaim his family seat and Rhea’s desperation to win over her father threaten to cause an insurmountable rift that could break them apart forever.
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Rhea blinked in disbelief. “What an insufferable man you are. And whether you are, as you would have me believe, a marquis, or whether you are a tinker, I would still find you the rudest, most vulgar individual I have ever had the misfortune to encounter.”
“I am impressed by this splendid show of ladylike disdain, feigned though it be, but well done nonetheless. But the light of truth has revealed you in my cabin. Now, how do you explain yourself out of that?”
Dante glanced down at the map, which was lying at his feet. “Since the map is still here, I must deduce that was not your intended object in stealing on board the Sea Dragon. Rather, you wanted to make my acquaintance. Perhaps you imagined that a marquis makes love differently from other men you have known. I assure you, except for my own personal preferences, I am no different from any other man.”
Dante eyed the girl up and down, noting with distaste her limp hair and dirty clothes, and guessed she was eighteen or older. Probably older to have so arrogant a demeanor and the derring-do to beard the lion in his den. But one thing was for certain, she was old enough to be held accountable for her misdeeds. She needed to be taught a sobering lesson, one that she would not soon forget, Dante decided, for he was in no mood tonight to show leniency to anyone. Besides, odds were, if she’d had a pistol tucked away somewhere, he would be lying dead at her dainty, secondhand shoes right now.
“So, you wish to get to know me better,” Dante commented. “You have been rather inept at engaging anything more than my displeasure thus far. If your scheme is to succeed, then you will have to make a few concessions to me. You should have taken more care to learn my likes and dislikes. I am a very particular fellow about whom I let into my bed. And right now, you haven’t a ghost of a chance to fulfill that wish of yours.” Dante was pleased to see an expression of concern passing across her grimy face.
“However, that can be remedied quite easily,” he continued. “I’ve never been one to stand in the way of another’s ambition, as long as it does not interfere with mine.” He sounded almost friendly, but Rhea was not deceived, for his painful grip on her wrists had not lessened.
“Either you are hard of hearing or extremely obtuse,” Rhea declared furiously. “I despise the very sight of you and would find the burning fires of hell preferable to sharing a bed with you. I do not care if you have an arm’s length of titles to your wretched name, whatever that might be. All I desire is to get off this ship, and away from you.”
“Ah, come now, no more protestations against sharing my bed, for we both know how hollow they are,” Dante responded easily. His smile was forced, though, for this insolent chit had a way with words that cut deeply into a man’s self-esteem, and his had already been inflicted with a few jabs of late.
Dante’s gaze clashed with the violet eyes that were glowing with hatred of him, and he resented the fact that such beauty should belong to a dirty little street urchin, who would spit in his face if she thought she could get away with it unscathed. Her contempt for him was visible in every quivering ounce of her, and yet she was the one who had set out to entrap and deceive him. He was the one with the grievances, although to look at her one would think she had been the victim of foul play.
Dante allowed his eyes to linger on the contours of her face for a moment longer, a moment which seemed endless to Rhea. Then he smiled, and it was a strangely beautiful smile in spite of its coldness. Abruptly, he released her wrists, picked up the map, and walked away from her.
Laurie McBain became a publishing phenomenon at age twenty-six with her first historical romance. She is a winner of the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Historical Romance Author. All of her romances were bestsellers, selling over 11 million copies. Laurie’s books have been out of print for over 5 years.
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