From the sensuous voice of novelist Brenda Joyce comes Firestorm, the extraordinary second book in the Bragg family saga that has captured the hearts of readers everywhere. Here is the beginning of the Bragg empire-opulent and glamorous-vast, dangerous, and as untamed as the sweeping plains of Texas...
Storm Bragg could outshoot and outride any man, but her family decided it was time she traded in her buckskins for a ballgown and made her debut in San Francisco society.Quickly pursued by every eligible gentleman in town, the young hellcat from Texas had eyes for only one, and he was no gentleman.Brett D'Archand was a self-made success -- arrogant, impossibly attractive, blatantly sensual -- and looking for a wife who would give him respectability.
Storm was completely bewitched by him, but she made him lose his head as well as his heart. And, threatened by scandal and ruin, they are forced to wed -- a tempestuous union of free spirits, shackled only by the irrepressible bonds of love.
Brett sat at the large, leather-topped mahogany desk with a frown of concentration that deepened to a scowl. He turned the pages of the oversized ledger. Damn. He should have known. This was the first time he'd made an error in judgment about a man, and hopefully it would be the last. Furious now, he snapped the book closed and rose to his full six feet, two inches.
He paced to the window and stared broodingly out at Stockton Street. He was not going to let his bookkeeper's theft ruin this day. A slight smile formed on his ruthlessly sculpted face. Not that he was being sentimental just because it was his birthday. But ... maybe he was. Today he was twenty-six, and he had everything he wanted. His smile widened.
Not bad for the son of a whore.
Not bad for the bastard of a Californio.
D'Archand did not resemble his mother, who was French, petite, chestnut-haired, and blue-eyed. Instead he was almost an exact replica of his father, Don Felipe Monterro-tall, broad-shouldered, powerfully built, harshly handsome. And dark, very dark, with nearly black eyes that held little softness and short, crisply curling black hair.
The last time Brett had seen his father he had been graying at the temples, Brett recalled, and instantly grew tense and angry. A scene flashed through his head, which he tried, but failed, to ignore.
"I'm leaving, Father," a sixteen-year-old Brett had said, waiting, begging silently for his father to stop him.
The handsome, lean man remained emotionless. "Where will you go?"
Brett refused to feel the pain. He was a fool. He had never been accepted by his father, had never been more than the bastard in the stable, insurance against the possibility that there would be no other heirs. Now he was no longer needed. When he had heard Don Felipe's new wife's infant boy begin to cry, he had wanted to cry, too. Instead, his face was as cold and stiff as the don's. "I'm going to Sutter's Fort," he answered.
"Ah, gold," the haciendado said. It was early 1849.
"Yes, sir." He could barely get out the words.
The don gave him a blooded Arabian stallion and a few hundred pesos. Brett rode out that day and never looked back.
Unconsciously, Brett's fist smashed against the windowsill, the hard planes of his face rigid. "I won't look back," he growled aloud. "For all I care, the old sonuvabitch is dead. And good riddance! I don't need him. I have what I want-success, respectability ... everything. "
From outside his office came a loud crash of breaking glass.
Brett froze, listening, but made no move to leave his large, elegant office. It was decorated in a classic style, with mahogany doors, an Oriental rug in coral and blue, a large sofa in wine-colored leather. There were two French chairs covered in pin-striped silk, blue velvet drapes, and wall-to-wall bookcases. His first mistress, Suzanne, had decorated the room for him under his watchful, critical eye when he had acquired the Golden Lady and moved out of his other, shabbier offices in the Miner's Girl-his first saloon and first investment.
He had to smile, remembering how he had scraped together enough gold dust to buy into a partnership in that sinkhole. A profitable sinkhole upon which he had founded the wealth he owned today. He almost laughed.
The Golden Lady was one of San Francisco's classiest establishments, every inch as plush and elegant as his office. Even the second floor-where hostesses earned top dollar satisfying their customers-was tastefully decorated. Because of the lack of women in San Francisco even now, ten years after the gold rush-city government and society tolerated its houses of ill repute. Being owner of the Golden Lady didn't detract from Brett's reputation, because...