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By Jane Porter
Mills & BoonCopyright © 2002 Jane Porter
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Chapter One"I don't kidnap women," Lazaro Herrera retorted grimly, his back to the plate-glass window overlooking Buenos Aires's fashionable Avenida Sante Fe boulevard. "I might have a reputation for being ruthless, but that's business, not personal."
"Sometimes I'm not sure if it isn't personal," Dante Galvan answered, almost as an aside.
Lazaro turned sharply to face the man who headed Galvan Enterprises, and the only man Lazaro answered to. Dante might be chief executive officer but as president, Lazaro was the acting manager. "Even I have scruples, and I draw the line at kidnapping."
"You're misinterpreting me. I never said kidnap. Zoe is my wife's younger sister. She's just twenty-two. All I want to do is to protect her."
Lazaro's gaze narrowed speculatively. "Protect Daisy, you mean." Dante didn't say anything and Lazaro's mouth twisted grimly. "Neither you nor Daisy like this American, Carter Scott -"
"For good reasons, mind you."
"So what you're really doing is shielding Daisy from unpleasant news."
Dante didn't immediately answer. His mouth pressed tight, his features pinched. Dark purple shadows formed crescents beneath his amber eyes. "Daisy can't lose this baby. She can't handle this right now, can't handle more bad news, and I'll be damned ifI let her suffer through another miscarriage."
Pain throbbed in Dante's voice, pain and anger and helplessness. Lazaro knew about Daisy's two previous miscarriages. The second one occurred last year, and fairly late in the pregnancy. Daisy had been devastated by the loss and Dante had taken six weeks off from work to be with Daisy as she convalesced at the estancia. It was then Lazaro had completely taken over management of the corporation.
Unfortunately, Dante didn't know he was playing straight into Lazaro's hands. Dante didn't know that every move he made, every bit of power he relinquished, only strengthened Lazaro's position, and weakened his own.
"I'm lucky to have you," Dante said quietly. "If it weren't for you, we'd all be in trouble."
Lazaro tensed, his conscience pricked by Dante's earnest gratitude. He hated the tug of contradictory emotions within him and turned to face the window where Buenos Aires's skyline sparkled in the sunshine.
For the first time in a long time, he despised what he'd started here, with the Galvans.
He despised the secrets he kept buried in his heart, despised the thing that drove him to destroy Dante and the Galvans, but it was too late to change the course now.
Yet even as he stood at the window, weighted by memories of a dark past, he felt Dante's worry for Daisy, felt Dante's own burden, and longed to warn Dante to be careful. Don't trust me. Don't feel safe with me. Don't let me close to your family.
But Lazaro didn't speak. He stifled the guilt and sense of obligation, telling himself that Dante's problems weren't his problems. Dante's pain wasn't his pain. Dante's loss wasn't his loss.
Lazaro drew a deep breath, hardened his emotions, and reminded himself that this wasn't a simple feud. It was revenge. More than revenge.
It was about one's soul.
Ice sheeting his heart, Lazaro turned from the city glittering with sunshine to face his secret arch rival. "What's the plan?"
* * *
"Be quiet, do as you're told, and everything will be fine."
She'd been kidnapped - abducted in the middle of the day from Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires in full view of airport security.
Zoe Collingsworth's stomach plummeted as the helicopter tilted sideways and flew at a peculiar angle to the earth below.
She gripped her boxy seat tighter, fingers clenched so hard that the knuckles ached. He'd told her not to talk and she hadn't, but she was very afraid. This couldn't really be happening ... this had to be a bad dream ...
"We'll be landing in a few minutes."
She jerked at the sound of his voice. It was the first time he'd spoken in the two hours they'd been aboard the helicopter. She'd never heard a voice pitched so low and it rumbled through her like a slow-moving freight train.
"Where are you taking me?" she whispered, hands trembling.
He briefly glanced her way, his narrowed eyes barely resting on her. "It doesn't matter."
Her mouth went dry, fear sucking heat from her limbs. She touched her seat belt, checking the tension in the belt, as though the small firm strap across her lap could somehow protect her from whatever was to come next.
She wanted to say something fierce and defiant, wanted to be brave because that's how Daisy handled problems. But Zoe wasn't a warrior woman and she felt the worst kind of terror imaginable. She'd never even been out of Kentucky before, and now on her first trip anywhere she was ... she was ...
Her heart thudded so fast and hard she thought it might explode. She stared at her captor. He wasn't looking at her, but staring out the window, his gaze fixed on the darkening landscape below. Twilight swathed all in shadows. "What do you want from me?"
Finally she had his attention. He stared at her in the fading light, long dark lashes concealing his eyes, his expression curiously hard. There was nothing remotely gentle in his grim features. "Let's not do this now."
His English was flawless and yet his tone cut razor-sharp. He'd been schooled in the States, she thought blankly, numb from head to toe. "Are you going to ... hurt me?"
Excerpted from Lazaro's Revenge by Jane Porter Copyright © 2002 by Jane Porter. Excerpted by permission.
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