Jump into the fire
Severo Dante and his brothers had always dismissed rumors of the Inferno--an explosive desire that overtakes Dante men when they first see their soul mates. Then Severo met jewelry designer Francesca Sommers and was astonished by their raw, urgent, mutual attraction. A rising star at a rival company, Francesca has crafted a dazzling new collection that could ruin Severo's plans to rebuild the Dante empire. His solution: blackmail her into becoming his employee--and his fiance--until their smoldering affair runs its course. But some fires, once lit, can never be extinguished....
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February 11, 2008
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Excerpt from Dante's Blackmailed Bride by Day Leclaire
Francesca Sommers ran a critical eye over the sumptuous ballroom in Nob Hill's exclusive five-star hotel, Le Premier, and struggled to suppress a severe case of nerves. In a little over twenty-four hours she'd have her very first showing. She couldn't believe her good fortune, both in being offered the opportunity to work with Tina and Kurt Fontaine, as well as having her designs among those featured at Timeless Heirlooms' spring show.
As though sensing Francesca's nervousness, Tina came up beside her and slipped an arm around her waist. "You can stop worrying right now," she said. "You'll see. Your pieces will be the hit of the evening. Not to take anything away from Cliff or Deborah's talent and skill--they're both good designers--it's your collection that will take everyone's breath away. It offers the perfect blend of romantic elegance and timeless appeal that are hallmarks of my company."
Francesca relaxed ever so slightly, smiling in delight at the compliment. "Are you sure you don't mean old-fashioned?" she asked with a laugh.
Tina lifted a dark eyebrow, which gave her exotic features an imperious cast. "Period pieces are a Fontaine specialty. We're at the leading edge of the resurgence in popularity for jewelry like this. You'll see. Tomorrow night's showing will put us over the top."
Francesca shook her head. "Catching Juliet Bloom's eye will put us over the top. I don't suppose she's responded to our invitation?"
"Her agent contacted us. She's still out of the country wrapping her latest film. But her agency's sending a representative. And I've learned that Juliet's next movie is another period piece. If this rep likes what she sees..." Tina lifted a shoulder. "We've all done the best we can. The rest is up to fate, as well as those stunning pieces you've designed."
Kurt entered the room and Tina murmured an excuse before joining her husband. Francesca pretended to give her full attention to the various displays currently under construction, but in reality she studied her employers with an intense yearning.
As the brilliant and creative owner of Timeless Heir-looms, Tina couldn't be more different from her husband of nearly thirty years. Small, dark and vivacious, she hurtled through her days, whereas Kurt took life in stride. He also qualified as one of the most strikingly handsome men Francesca had ever met, towering over Tina, his Nordic appearance the polar opposite of his wife's.
Although he held the title of director of operations for TH, his real job consisted of supporting Tina and keeping the nuts and bolts of the business end of the company running smoothly. With his calm, reassuring demeanor, he excelled at both, even during stressful and frantic periods such as this.
Francesca gripped her hands together. Right now Timeless Heirlooms desperately needed Kurt's soothing touch. Despite the Fontaines' attempts to keep everyone in the dark, rumors had reached Francesca of their financial difficulties. They were counting on her--or rather, her designs--to help them recover their footing in the volatile world of jewelry sales. In response, she'd thrown herself, heart and soul, into her job, giving the Fontaines every ounce of her talent and skill. But would that be enough?
For as long as Francesca could remember, she'd wanted to work for one of Dantes' subsidiaries, mainly because it offered an unparalleled opportunity to advance her career and bring her designs to life. But when the Fontaines bought out TH, a far different reason drew her to apply to them for a job, instead of Dantes. A reason she kept tucked close to her heart.
It gave her the opportunity to get to know her father.
Sev's plans for the evening of the Fontaines' show seemed perfect...right up until he saw her.
For some inexplicable reason, she drew his gaze the moment he walked into the ballroom and the impact from that one look struck with all the power and sizzle of a lightning bolt flung from on high. Every business plan, every thought about taking over TH, of tracking down this new designer and acquiring him for Dantes, leaked from Sev's brain and puddled at his feet. In its place one imperative remained.
Get. The. Woman.
She stood in the midst of a group of people, a tall, golden swan surrounded by sparrows. Everything about her spoke of old-time grace and elegance, the very embodiment of Timeless Heirlooms' motto--jewelry that mates past with present. He knew many beautiful women, but something about this one captivated him on a visceral level. Unremitting desire entangled him in an unbreakable web and refused to let go no matter how hard he struggled to break the bond.
For a split second Sev forgot why he'd come or what he hoped to accomplish. Instead, he felt compelled to follow that primal tug. He would have, too, if Marco hadn't grabbed his arm.