Read Dante's Fire Online

Authors: Jennifer Probst

Tags: #Romance

Dante's Fire

BOOK: Dante's Fire
13.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


It’s Time to Meet a New Kind of Hero





To the wonderful men in my life who helped me believe in superheroes.

Boys, this one’s for you.




ANTE Stark lifted his hands and pressed palms flat against the windowpane. Trees bent to the will of the storm, and the sky remained dark and unfriendly overhead. Rain streamed down in misty rivulets, pattering the glass. The chill soothed the sting of his skin, but he was used to the burn and barely felt the discomfort anymore.

It was over.

Of course, it had barely begun. A few dates. The promise of something more. Her smile was sweet, her demeanor gentle, but after a few evenings of him disappearing with no explanation, the foundation was already beginning to crumble. She stared at him with wariness now, the slight frown marring her brow as if she now greeted a stranger.

And she did. Because the half-truths he had to tell to keep his secret always got in the way. It seemed everything in his life was both a blessing and curse—the women he began to care for turned suspicious and pulled back. It was the price he had to pay to keep the dark legacy that some might see as a gift. Perhaps, it was. But right now, it didn’t feel that way.

Dante dragged in a breath and leaned his forehead against the smooth glass. He couldn’t do this to himself any longer. Or to them. He needed to accept the truth about his destiny.

He would always be alone.

It was safer. Kinder. No more hurt or false promises. No more lies. Loneliness, yes. But loneliness he’d always been able to handle.

He clenched his fists, refusing to wince at the soreness. This time, he’d do things differently. Inferno Enterprises was close to opening, and he’d planned to take a CEO position, hoping to bury himself in the blessed void of hard work. But his instincts warned him the move could be dangerous. He’d be in the spotlight, and would need to be involved in constant meetings, travel, and deal with the press. If he wanted his secret to remain safe, he had to stay on the sidelines. A place where he wouldn’t be noticed, yet able to keep an eye on everything.

A humorless laugh escaped his lips. He was about to launch a billion dollar Property Empire and couldn’t even claim it as his. God, life was cruel.

“Playing the brooding billionaire again?”

The mocking voice behind him made him groan. “I’m not in the mood, Chase. Leave me alone. How the hell did you get in here anyway?”

“My extra key. I sensed you needed an intervention.”

“Go away.”

Chase chuckled. “So you can cry against the window and rage about your fate in life? You disappoint me.”

Dante lifted his head. Damn. “Even you can’t deny me a few minutes of misery. Not only did I fail at another attempted relationship, but I’ve got to hand my newest corporation over to you.”

Chase studied him from the shadows. His friend was the only one who knew about his secret, and the only person in the world Dante trusted. They’d been working together for years, with Chase taking the lead as the face of the company while Dante was able to stay in the background. Most of the executives and financiers only knew Dante as a name on paper, but Chase was the main contact.

“Sara was never right for you,” Chase said. “You need a woman with some fire.” Dante raised a brow and his friend laughed. “Sorry for the metaphor.”

“You always sucked at creativity.”

“Not my forte. I’m better being the Alfred to your Batman.”

Dante laughed and turned from the window. “You’ve never cooked or cleaned in your life.”

“True. And you don’t have any cool machinery either. Kinda boring. But at least I’ll get to play with Inferno. I’ve already got my eye on some of the hotties we hired.”

Dante shook his head. “Work and play don’t mix, and we both know it. Keep to the clubs you like to frequent.” With his streaky blonde hair, light blue eyes, and smooth charm, Chase was a magnet to women and enjoyed them all. Many times in multiple pairings. His sexual escapades were widely known and he never lacked for partners. Dante envied his freedom and ability not to care.

“You’re no fun. I’m the symbol of discreetness. Maybe if you got laid more often you wouldn’t try to ruin my happiness. And theirs.”

“Maybe if you didn’t get laid so much you’d have a better shot at holding down a real relationship.”

Mock hurt carved out his elegant features. “I have real relationships. They begin each evening and end at dawn. Besides, it would be selfish to limit myself to one woman. Too many would miss out on the incredible opportunity for multiple orgasms.”

Dante grinned. “Why do I bother? Just concentrate on getting Inferno launched successfully.”

“Of course. Is my office cool?”

“Yes. A wet bar, exercise room, and a private bedroom. Mahogany desk, like you requested.”

“Excellent. While I’m enjoying the benefits of CEO stardom, where will you be?”

Dante rubbed his forehead. There was only one place he could assume a role where he knew everyone, everything, and was still invisible. “The mailroom.”

Silence fell. Then Chase burst into laughter. “Oh, this is too good. You’ll be delivering mail while I’m in the executive suite. This is poetic. You really are a fucking superhero.”

“Screw you. I’m still the owner and your boss. Now get your ass to work and out of my apartment.”

Chase was still laughing when Dante walked away. Maybe it was better this way. He’d lay low, be the eyes and ears of Inferno, and not have to worry about any mysterious disappearances or suspicious questions.

Yes. It was better to be alone.



Chapter One


ANTE Stark stopped at the closed door and grabbed the package of mail from his cart. The scar on his left cheek tingled in anticipation as he twisted the knob. For God's sakes, he felt like a pimply teenager lusting after the head cheerleader. Or nerdy Clark Kent sweating over the elusive Lois Lane. He quickly squashed the thought and stepped into the lush office.

She sat behind the sleek black desk, earpiece in, chatting to the unoccupied room as if hosting a dinner party. Those shimmering green-gold eyes caught and held his. They always reminded him of a treasure trove of riches—citrine and emerald stones melded together. She had the power to captivate an onlooker with her intense gaze, dive deep, and linger. How many times had his breath caught when she looked at him like that? A thousand times? He craved to be the man who made
breath catch, but instead, she motioned him in as if his presence didn’t affect her at all. Her lush red lips curved in a friendly smile, treating him to a flash of white teeth with the intriguing gap in the center. Funny, she was so perfectly gorgeous, that one flaw made her even more intriguing. Made her real.

His heartbeat nudged a few paces as he made his way towards her, placed the pile of mail on the left corner of the ruthlessly organized desk, and waited for her to finish up.

His gaze assessed with expert ease. Her peach skin gleamed from a good night's sleep, her speaking tone was easy with no hidden stress, and her fingers relaxed around the pen she tapped steadily against the massive black leather chair. He always got a kick out of her preference for overlarge chairs. The intricate scrolled wooden arms and high pedestal gave him the impression of a ruler looking down upon her people. She preferred simplicity, evident in the bookcase behind her arranged in alphabetical order, the large conference table with no papers or folders marring the gleam, and the absence of personal items. No photos. No awards, degrees, or inspirational quotes plastered around. The scents of lemon furniture polish and rich vanilla hung in the air.

Even her appearance screamed elegant simplicity. Her straight dark hair was twisted up in her usual neat chignon, and just a hint of gloss gleamed against her cherry lips. She wore her usual conservative suit - dark charcoal, white blouse, low sensible heels. Gold hoops at the ears and her fingers bare. Selina Rogers was a woman looking to blend in with the boys’ club. She tackled the job with her usual efficiency, able to balance her femininity with a hardnosed business air that took the property world by storm.

She was a hell of a woman.

What intrigued Dante the most was her heart.

How many times had he caught her helping out people she barely knew? The time she’d found a secretary in tears because of a project, she couldn’t finish on time. The single working mother was terrified she’d lose her job. Selina settled her with a calm efficiency, sat down, and assisted with productivity charts until late in the evening. The deadline was met, and Selina never mentioned it again.

She remembered birthdays and anniversaries. If one of her team members was in trouble, she stepped up to help resolve the issue and took the heat if it wasn’t. She was a pure leader, but lacked the cruel motives of rising to the top by stomping on others along the way. Dante had seen much in the world of business, and rarely had he found someone so willing to be generous without worrying about how it affected her success. The only glaring fault he continuously found with her was something just as fascinating.

She seemed to have no personal life. No family. No close friends. No pets. She worked long days, nights, and weekends. When there was a holiday party, she never showed up with a date. On the long Thanksgiving weekend, he’d come in to grab a few files for Chase and found her holed up in her office. He expected a long line of men trailing her like crazed rats following the Pied Piper, but there seemed to be no one in her life.

The one thing they did have in common.

His thoughts were interrupted when she signed off on her call, clicked her earpiece, and gave him an open smile. "Hey, Dan, how's your day going?"

Dante Stark - known as Daniel in the company - knew she actually cared about the answer to her polite question. He'd rarely met an executive so interested in the other employees, whether it be the mail carrier, office cleaner, receptionist, or a colleague. She treated them all exactly the same - with respect.

"I've had better. It's catalogue day again." He motioned toward the huge stack of glossy magazines in phone book weight. “I already saw the marketing department whipping out their credit cards. Seems tropical cruises are forty percent off. Pair that with thirty percent off at The Bathing Suit outlet and we have a mass exodus.”

“I better get in there, then. No one’s leaving until we approve the Tribeca campaign.” She grinned with a hint of mischief. “Better make your PT appointment for later in the week. You’ll be out of alignment if that pile is an indication of what’s to come."

"Don't damage the male ego. I'm like a superhero, remember? Anyway, I have a whole team helping."

One perfectly arched brow rose. "Oh, yeah? Pete was in charge of delivering the catalogues last month, but you took over for him. He needs to retire, Dan. He's too old for this crap. He should be set up in a nice retirement home instead of schlepping an overlarge mail cart to thirty floors."

"Wants to buy his grandchildren lots of presents. He's a stubborn old coot - you talk to him."

"I'd rather deal with Forrester myself than mailroom Pete, thank you very much." They smiled at each other from across the desk and Dante felt the same low hum he always did in her presence. Intense. Sexual.

He shook off the disturbing thoughts and focused on business. “How’s the Forrester deal coming?”

Her face tightened. Dante hated the way this deal was draining her soul, but she was intent on making it work. If she led the team and signed the real estate mogul, she’d cement her place in the firm and prove she was one of the big players in New York property. Still, he wondered at what cost. “Slow. He’s resisting, and I still haven’t figured out why. Of course, he likes control, so I’m not surprised he’ll delay his final decision to the last moment.” She shook her head as if realizing her mail carrier knew every detail about her latest big deal. “How do you know all this?” Those gorgeous eyes narrowed with a bit of suspicion.

BOOK: Dante's Fire
13.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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