An empire. At the time he'd turned fifteen, Daniel MacGregor had promised himself he'd have one, build one, rule one. He always kept his word.
He was thirty years old and working on his second million with the same drive that had earned him his first. As he always had, he used his back, his brains and pure guile in whatever order worked best. When he'd come to America five years before, Daniel had had the money he'd saved by working his way up from miner to head bookkeeper for Hamus McGuire. He'd also brought a shrewd brain and towering ambition.
He could have passed for a king. He topped six-four with a build bold enough to suit his height. His size alone had kept him out of a number of fights, just as his size had seduced some men into challenging him. Either way was fine with Daniel. He was reputed to have a temper, but he considered himself a mild sort of person. Daniel didn't think he'd broken more than his share of noses in his day. He didn't consider himself handsome, either. His jaw was long and square, and running along its right edge was a scar that he'd gotten when a loose beam had toppled down on him in the mines. As a sop to his vanity, he'd grown a beard in his teens. A dozen years later it remained, deep red and well trimmed around his face, blending with a mane of hair that was too long for fashion. The combination made him look both fierce and royal, which pleased him. His cheekbones rose high and wide, and his mouth appeared surprisingly soft in its cushion of wild red hair. His eyes were a deep brilliant blue that lit with humor and goodwill when he smiled and meant it, just as they cooled to frost when he smiled and didn't.
Imposing. That was one adjective used to describe him. Ruthless was another. Daniel didn't care how he was described as long as he didn't go unnoticed. He was a gambler who played the odds boldly. Real estate was his wheel, and the stock market was his game table. When Daniel gambled, he played to win. The chances he'd taken had paid off. And when they had, he'd taken more. He never intended to play it too safe, because with safety came boredom.
Though he'd been born poor, Daniel MacGregor didn't worship money. He used it, wielded it, played with it. Money equaled power, and power was a weapon.
In America he found himself in a vast arena of wheeling and dealing. There was New York with its fast pace and hungry streets. A man with brains and nerve could build a fortune there. There was Los Angeles with its glamour and high stakes. A man with imagination could fashion an empire. Daniel had spent time in both, dabbled in business on either coast, but he chose Boston as his base and as his home. It wasn't simply money or power he sought, but style. Boston with its old-world charm, its stubborn dignity and its unapologetic snobbishness suited Daniel perfectly.
He'd come from a long line of warriors who had lived as much by wit as by the sword. His pride in his line was fierce, as fierce as his ambition. Daniel intended to see his line continue with strong sons and daughters. As a man of vision, he had no trouble seeing his grandchildren taking what he'd molded and building on it. There could be no empire without family to share it. To begin one, he needed the proper wife. Acquiring one, to Daniel, was as challenging and as logical as acquiring a prime piece of real estate. He'd come to the Donahues' summer ball to speculate on both.
He hated the tight collar and strangulating tie. When a man was built like a bull, he liked his neck free. His clothes were made in Boston by a tailor on Newbury Street. Daniel used him as much because his size demanded it as for the prestige. Ambition had put him in a suit, but he didn't have to like it. Another man dressed in the elegant black dinner suit and pleated silk shirt would have looked distinguished. Daniel, in either tartan or dress blacks, looked flamboyant. He preferred it that way.
Cathleen Donahue, Maxwell Donahue's eldest daughter, preferred it, as well.
"Mr. MacGregor." Fresh out of finishing school in Switzerland, Cathleen knew how to serve tea, embroider silk and flirt elegantly. "I hope you're enjoying our little party."
She had a face like porcelain and hair like flax. Daniel thought it a pity her shoulders were so thin, but he, too, knew how to flirt. "I'm enjoying it more now, Miss Donahue."
Knowing most men were put off by giggles, Cath-leen kept her laugh low and smooth. Her taffeta skirts whispered as she positioned herself beside him at the end of the long buffet table. Now, whoever stopped for a taste of truffles or salmon mousse would see them together. If she turned her head just a fraction, she could catch a glimpse of their reflection in one of the long narrow mirrors that lined the wall. She decided she liked what she saw.
"My father tells me you're interested in buying a little piece of cliff he owns in Hyannis Port." She fluttered her lashes twice. "I hope you didn't come here tonight to discuss business."
Daniel slipped two glasses from the tray of a passing waiter. He'd have preferred Scotch in a sturdy glass to champagne in crystal, but a man who didn't adjust in certain areas broke in others. As he drank, he studied Cathleen's face. He knew Maxwell Donahue would no more have discussed business with his daughter than he would have discussed fashion with her, but Daniel didn't fault her for lying. Rather he gave her credit for knowing how to dig out information. But while he admired her for it, it was precisely the reason he didn't consider her proper wife material. His wife would be too busy raising babies to worry about business.
"Business comes second to a lovely woman. Have you been to the cliffs?"
"Of course." She tilted her head so that the diamond flowers in her ears caught the light. "I do prefer the city. Are you attending the Ditmeyers' dinner party next week?"
"If I'm in town."
"So much traveling." Cathleen smiled before she sipped her champagne. She'd be very comfortable with a husband who traveled. "It must be exciting."
"It's business," he said. Then he added, "But you've just returned from Paris yourself."
Flattered that he'd been aware of her absence, Cathleen almost beamed. "Three weeks wasn't enough. Shopping alone took nearly every moment I had. You can't imagine how many tedious hours I spent in fittings for this gown."
He swept his gaze down and up as she'd expected. "I can only say it was well worth it."
"Why, thank you." As she stood, posing, his mind began to drift. He knew women were supposed to be interested mainly in dresses and hairstyles, but he'd have preferred a more stimulating conversation. Sensing she was losing his attention, Cathleen touched his arm. "You've been to Paris, Mr. MacGregor?"
He'd been to Paris and had seen what war could do to beauty. The pretty blonde smiling up at him would never be touched by war. Why should she be? Still, vaguely dissatisfied, Daniel sipped the dry bubbling wine. "Some years ago." He glanced around at the glitter of jewels, the sparkle of crystal. There was a scent in the air that could only be described as wealth. In five years he'd become accustomed to it, but he hadn't forgotten the smell of coal dust. He never intended to forget it. "I've come to prefer America to Europe. Your father knows how to throw a party."
"I'm glad you approve. You're enjoying the music?"
He still missed the wail of bagpipes. The twelve-piece orchestra in white tie was a bit stiff for his taste, but he smiled. "Very much."
"I thought perhaps you weren't." She sent him a slow, melting look from under her lashes. "You aren't dancing."
In a courtly gesture, Daniel took the champagne from Cathleen and set both their glasses down. "Oh, but I am, Miss Donahue," he corrected, and swept her onto the dance floor.
"Cathleen Donahue continues to be obvious." Myra Lornbridge nibbled pate and sniffed.
"Keep your claws sheathed, Myra." The voice was low and smooth, by nature rather than design.
"I don't mind when a person's rude or calculating or even a bit stupid" with a sigh, Myra finished off the cracker "but I do detest it when one is obvious."
"All right, all right." Myra poked at the salmon mousse. "By the way, Anna, I love your dress."
Anna glanced down at the rose-colored silk. "You picked it out."
"I told you I loved it." Myra gave a self-satisfied smile at the way the folds draped over Anna's hips. Very chic. "If you'd pay half the attention to your wardrobe as you do your books, you'd put Cathleen Donahue's nose out of joint."
Anna only smiled and watched the dancers. "I'm not interested in Cathleen's nose."
"Well, it isn't very interesting. How about the man she's dancing with?"
"The red-haired giant?"
"So you noticed."
"I'm not blind." She wondered how soon she could make a dignified exit. She really wanted to go home and read the medical journal Dr. Hewitt had sent her.
"Know who he is?"
"Anna." Patience was a virtue Myra extended only to her closest friends. "Fe fi fo fum."
With a laugh, Anna sipped her wine. "All right, who is he?"
"Daniel Duncan MacGregor." Myra paused a bit, hoping to pique Anna's interest. At twenty-four, Myra was rich and attractive. Beautiful, no. Even at her best, Myra knew she'd never be beautiful. She understood beauty was one route to power. Brains were another. Myra used her brains. "He's Boston's current boy wonder. If you'd pay more attention to who's who in our cozy little society, you'd recognize the name."
Society, with its games and restrictions, didn't interest Anna in the least. "Why should I? You'll tell me."
"Serve you right if I didn't."
But Anna only smiled and drank again.
"All right, I'll tell you." Gossip was one temptation Myra found impossible to resist. "He's a Scot, which is obvious I suppose from his looks and his name. You should hear him talk, it's like cutting through fog."
At that moment, Daniel let out a big, booming laugh that raised Anna's eyebrows. "That sounds as though it would cut through anything."
"He's a bit rough around the edges, but some people" she cast a meaningful look at Cathleen Donahue "believe that a million dollars or so smooths out anything."
Realizing that the man was being weighed and judged by the size of his bank balance, Anna felt a twinge of sympathy. "I hope he knows he's dancing with a viper," Anna murmured.
"He doesn't look stupid. He bought Old Line Savings and Loan six months ago."
"Really." She shrugged. Business only interested Anna when it involved a hospital budget. Sensing the movement to her left, she turned to smile at Herbert Ditmeyer standing with an unfamiliar gentleman. "How are you?"
"Glad to see you." He was only a few inches taller than Anna and had the lean, ascetic face of a scholar, with dark hair that promised to thin in a matter of years. But there was a strength around his mouth that Anna respected, and he had a sense of humor it took a sharp wit to understand. "You're looking lovely." He gestured to the man beside him. "My cousin, Mark. Anna Whitfield and Myra Lornbridge." Herbert's gaze lingered just a moment longer on Myra, but as the orchestra began a new waltz, he lost his nerve and took Anna's arm. "You should be dancing."
Anna matched her steps to his naturally. She loved to dance, but preferred to do so with someone she knew. Herbert was comfortable. "I heard congratulations are in order" she smiled up into his dependable face "Mr. District Attorney."
He grinned. He was young for the position but had no intention of stopping there. If he hadn't considered it bad form, he might have told Anna of his ambitions.
"I wasn't sure Boston news traveled as far as Connecticut." He glanced to where Myra was dancing with his cousin. "I suppose I should have known better."
Anna laughed as they twirled around another couple. "Just because I've been out of town doesn't mean I don't want to keep up with what's happening here in Boston. You must be very proud."
"It's a beginning," Herbert said lightly. "And youone more year and we'll have to call you Dr. Whitfield."
"One more year," Anna murmured. "Sometimes it seems like forever."
"Impatient, Anna? That's not like you." Yes, it was, but she'd always managed to conceal it so successfully. "I want it to be official. It's no secret that my parents disapprove."
"They might disapprove," Herbert added, "but your mother doesn't have any trouble mentioning you're in the top ten percent of your class for the third year running."
"Really?" Surprised, Anna thought it over. Her mother had always been more apt to praise her hairstyle than her grades. "I'll have to be grateful for that then, though she still harbors the hope that some man will come along and make me forget about operating rooms and bedpans."
As she spoke, Herbert turned her. Anna found herself looking directly into Daniel MacGregor's eyes. She felt her stomach muscles tighten. Nerves? Ridiculous. She felt the quick chill that raced down her spine and up again. Fear? Absurd.