HER LIFE WAS AT STAKE...
When Emma St. John received her brother's letter imploring her to escape her stepfather's vengeful scheme and to trust Dakota Barringer with her life, she was willing to chance it. But the handsome, brooding riverboat owner Emma found in Natchez was a danger of another kind. For Emma soon found herself surrendering to an unrelenting desire.
...AND SO WAS HER HEART
Raised by the sioux when his parents were killed, Dakota had been betrayed once before by a white woman. He wasn't about to trust another, especially one claiming that her stepfather, a powerful U.S. senator, had framed her as a murderess. But he couldn't deny Emma's intoxicating effect on him. Now Dakota would risk his very life to protect the innocent beauty who had seduced him with her tender love.
The hair on the back of Dakota's neck stood on end, a sensation that wasn't new to Dakota. His hand slowly drifted to the handle of his gun, one finger slipping into the trigger.
He deftly closed the cards in his other hand so only one was showing. The ace of hearts.
The scent of vanilla caught his attention then vanished, replaced by the smell of stale liquor and rancid smoke from expensive cigars. Then he thought he heard the soft chime of bells singing in the smoke-filled room.
Every gut instinct he possessed cried out danger, be wary, yet all the warnings seemed to fade. Two different stories. Vanilla. And bells. God, he must be loony.
"More whiskey?" Her warm breath feathered across his cheek. Soft whispers of bells shivered by his ear. When he turned, he saw breasts and shadowed, titillating cleavage. Deep, evocative sensations suddenly coursed through him. He moved his hand from his gun and trailed his finger across her bared shoulder, the contact mercuric. The urge to dip his finger into the valley between her breasts almost overpowered common sense. She was lush and ripe, and he realized suddenly she would be in his bed come morning.
He pushed his glass toward her and she filled it.
He fingered the black lace trimming her bodice, his knuckles brushing silken skin. The heat of her flesh penetrated his own, her softness beckoning to him.
She flushed and looked away.
A fine actress, he thought. But he couldn't deny that he liked what he saw--desired her. Lust was volcanic and all-consuming at times.
With his free hand, he poured two fingers of whiskey into an empty glass then held it out to her. She hesitated only a minute before drinking the brew. Her eyes widened, but she gave no other sign that the liquid surely must burn a horrible path down her throat.
"Sir," she said softly then put the glass down. "No more." She covered the top of it with her hand.
"Perhaps she'd like this better," Lou said. She set on the table the decanter of red wine Emma had drunk from earlier. Dakota looked at her and she nodded. He poured from the decanter and once again she drank.
He brought his finger to her chin and directed her to look at him. Their eyes met, and he stared into deep gray eyes, a face with delicate features, high cheekbones. He couldn't tear his gaze from hers. Her innate sadness penetrated bone deep, right into his soul, and seemed to join with him.
He recognized her. She'd come aboard with a little girl who was not more than seven or eight. Hers? he wondered. He could barely credit that. She couldn't be more than twenty or twenty-one. That would have made her--what-- thirteen or fourteen.
Impossible, perhaps not.
Lost for a moment in thought, he downed a drink of his own then poured her more. The bottle of wine, now half empty, stood in front of them.
She touched her top lip with the tip of her tongue. Her satin-covered breasts brushed across his arm as she set her glass on the table. When the piano started up again, she turned to look, her breasts swaying evocatively and her skirts rising higher to give him a glimpse of slim legs and beautiful thighs. With the slight movement the silver bells around her wrist sang magically.
She was a born tease, just like every other white woman. She meant to tempt him, wanted his money and whatever else she could gain from him. It seemed she could hold her liquor as well as any man.
Then she smiled at him, all pretense gone.
Dakota had no way to explain the rapid exhilaration of his heart or the tightening of his most private parts. Everything about the woman appealed to him. Her eyes held him spellbound and suggested an intimacy he could only guess at. Her body was curved and soft. When she sat down, the bodice of her dress was stretched and pulled against her lovely nipples that had tightened into hard little buds.