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Dante's Fire

By:Jennifer Probst

Dante's Fire
Jennifer Probst

 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.


DANTE 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

DANTE 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 her  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.