Portia Tofton has always yearned for brooding Mateo Cardea. His dark good looks filled her girlish dreams -- dreams that were cruelly shattered when Mateo rejected her hand in marriage.
Now Portia's home has been gambled away, and Mateo is the only man she can turn to. This time, however, she has in her possession something he wants -- and she finds herself striking a deal with the devil himself!
Danger is all around -- but Portia has no choice but to trust this man who once betrayed her....
Fun journey from friends to lovers. Mateo is in England to confront his childhood playmate Portia. Upon the death of his father he discovered that control of the family shipping business had been left to her instead of to him. He had spent years pouring everything he had into making the company strong, frequently butting heads with his conservative father. Now he has to find a way to get his business back before all his plans are ruined.
Portia doesn't want the business. However, her late husband gambled away her home and she is desperate to get it back. She plans to offer Mateo a deal - she'll sign the business over as soon as he finds the person who won her home and gets it back. She's not content to just give him the mission, she is going to be with him every step of the way, protecting her interests.
The relationship between Mateo and Portia is very interesting. Their fathers had been good friends so they spent a lot of time together as children and teens. As the only girl, Portia had been ignored and put down by her father and brothers. In order to escape she married a man who turned out to be even worse. He died a scandalous death, leaving her to deal with the aftermath. When they were younger, Portia had tagged after the boys, and Mateo was the only one who treated her with any kindness. She developed quite the crush on him and was thrilled when their fathers proposed that they marry. Mateo wasn't pleased at all and flat out refused, not knowing how Portia felt, and seeing her only as the kid he remembered. This broke her heart.
When they met again, Mateo was surprised by the changes in Portia. At first he believed she had been part of the plot to cut him out but soon realized his mistake. When he became aware of her problem he didn't hesitate to jump in and do his best to fix it. He really wants to get it fixed quickly so he can get back to sea where he feels comfortable. He also wants to get away from Portia, who has become a vastly appealing woman to him. But he is a man of the sea and she is tied to the land, and he sees no way for them to be together.
Their journey to track down the person who won Portia's home was very interesting. The more time they spend together, the closer they get. Mateo sees the beautiful and strong woman that Portia has become, and has to fight the attraction he is feeling for her. He knows that his lifestyle and hers are incompatible. Meanwhile, Portia's girlhood crush has become much stronger. She knows that there is no future for them, but she's ready to indulge herself anyway. I loved seeing her push past her reservations and go after what she wanted. Both Mateo and Portia learned a lot about themselves and their own dreams during their travels.
I loved reading about the journey itself. It was obvious to me that they were being led for a reason. I figured out early what the purpose was (it is a romance after all). The people they met along the way were each unique in their own way, and I felt that each was intended to be an example or lesson to Mateo and Portia. It didn't take long to figure out the identity of the Countess once they reached that part of the journey. I loved Mateo's plan to catch the mysterious gambler, and was quite surprised by the twist of his identity. I really enjoyed the revelations of all that had led up to that point. All that was left was for Portia and Mateo to figure out how to live their dreams and still be together. I liked what they came up with.