The Lady and The Dragon
A runaway heiress. A gentleman pirate. The adventure of a lifetime.
Lady Christina Delafield was as bold as she was beautiful. When her overbearing grandfather threatened to tame her in a Swiss finishing school, Christina stowed away on the first ship leaving London harbor, determined to make her own way in life. But the mysterious captain of the Dragon’s Lair was a seductive reason to relinquish her independence–and embrace desire.
Drexell Cain had lived for four years as the merciless Black Dragon, the scourge of the seas. Bent on rescuing his brother from the British Navy, Drex would do anything to return him to his wife and son in Louisiana–even kidnap the Lord Admiral’s granddaughter for ransom. A lovely blonde stowaway was an unexpected complication, until he discovered her real identity–and her passionate claim on his lonely heart.
Christina drew in a quick breath and whirled to face the captain’s door, white-gloved fingers clutching her valise. She clasped the cold latch and lifted. The door opened with a quiet click. She dashed inside.
The captain’s naked back, golden and muscle-hardened, filled her vision. She stifled a gasp at the snarling black and green dragon tattoo dominating one shoulder blade. Its open mouth breathed fire across the width of his back, to his other shoulder. The curling tail wound around a powerful biceps.
She couldn’t move, could not tear her eyes away. A tattoo? Dear God, what kind of a barbarian would have that arrogant monster permanently embedded into his flesh?
One without the worries or scruples of a gentleman.
Uncertainty assailed her. This man was the antithesis of all she’d known, spawned from an opposite end of the Earth. She knew nothing about his less-than-civilized world. Would she survive long enough to see Aunt Mary in Grand Bahama? Trembling, she shoved the dismal thought aside and glanced about his cabin.
An exotic, Oriental aura dominated the space, which looked half the size of her dressing room. A burning taper filled the room with a pungent musk. Her shocked gaze fixed on the dramatic austerity of the black decor, relieved only by the pale wooden walls. An ebony and emerald silk coverlet on his bunk boasted the same scaled symbol of fire and power as his shoulder.
He reached for his shirt and pulled it on, concealing the intimidating dragon from her view. She swallowed in relief.
Feet planted apart, broad shoulders filling his black shirt, he tucked the cotton garment into skin-tight, biscuit-colored breeches. “I told you I didn’t want to see you.”
Startled by his acknowledgment, she stammered, “But I must speak with you. Please. Five minutes.”
He whirled to face her. The sight rooted her in place.
A scrap of black silk stretched along the upper part of his square face, from brows to the bridge of his nose. She shivered. Only one type of man wore a mask: the dangerous kind.
The sight of his hard, bearded jaw arrested her next. A wall of power surged toward her as he stepped closer. Christina could not decide if she should attribute the feeling to the foreboding impression he made with black shirt, black mask, black beard, black eyes…or the displeasure thundering across the hard angles of his face. Then again, perhaps the sleek ebony length of his hair grazing his mammoth shoulders and the golden ring dangling from his left ear roused her unease. Either way, he was no one to trifle with; he’d made that abundantly clear without a word.
“W—why do you wear the…mask?” she stammered. “Oh, my… You hide your identity.”
“Hmm. Perceptive.” His low quip cut and didn’t invite further conversation. But she could not give up and return home. Life in Switzerland was much more abhorrent. And cold.
Hancock burst through the door. “Cap’n, I’m sorry. The vixen tricked me.” He turned to her, his look less than friendly. “Come on. The cap’n wants ye gone.”
A crooked smile curved the captain’s mouth as he waved the man away. Christina did not find his expression comforting.
“No need,” he assured, his gaze shifting to regard her. “I’ll handle her. Dismissed.”
The little man glanced from her to the captain, then back again, smiling now. “Aye.”
Hancock closed the door behind them, leaving them completely alone. In the ensuing silence of the small cabin, the captain scanned her with a thorough gaze.
She crossed protective arms across her chest and buried her apprehension. “I came to make you a proposition, Captain.”
“A proposition?” His already suggestive tone dropped to a purr that set her instincts on full alarm. He leaned his hip indolently against the small cherry-wood desk bolted into the cabin’s wooden floor. “Well, now you do have my attention.”
Christina gasped. The cur actually had the nerve to smile! She trembled, and he grinned like a well-fed cat.
They stood on opposite ends of the minuscule cabin—three steps from each other. The captain pushed away from the desk; his stride ate up one of the precious steps separating them. With her back at the door, Christina had nowhere to retreat.
She struggled for her next breath. The scents of salt, incense and man filled her nose. She forced herself to hold his stare, even as a tingling awareness of the captain rose inside her.
“I am talking about a business proposal,” she corrected. “And I will thank you to stop leering at me.”
An infuriatingly insolent grin lifted the corners of his mouth. “Don’t thank me; it won’t happen.”