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Billionaire's Passionate Revenge : The Billionaires Romance Series - Jennifer St George

Billionaire's Passionate Revenge

The Billionaires Romance Series

eBook Published: 15th September 2015
ISBN: 9781760142117
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Heiress Lady Zara Ravensdale and Xavier Hunt, the gardener's son, were once inseparable. But before their romance had a chance to bloom, it was crushed by scandal and betrayal.

Xavier is now an international celebrity and sexier than sin while Zara is deep in debt, running Ravensdale Manor as an upmarket hotel to make ends meet. Unable to forget the past, Xavier returns to the manor, determined to exact his revenge on the Ravensdale family – once and for all.

Together again, passions reignite and the old chemistry becomes impossible to ignore. But Xavier and Zara are both keeping secrets and neither can forget their troubled history. Will they be able to uncover the truth of that night or will Xavier's need for revenge tear them apart forever?

The Billionaire's Passionate Revenge is the third book in the Billionaire series by bestselling romance author, Jennifer St George. If you love billionaire romance, don't miss this passionate read!

THE BILLIONAIRE ROMANCE SERIES:

The Billionaire's Pursuit of Love

Tempted by the Billionaire Tycoon

The Billionaire's Passionate Revenge

OTHER BOOKS BY JENNIFER ST GEORGE:

The Convenient Bride

Seducing the Secret Heiress

The Love Deception

About the Author

Jennifer is the author of contemporary romance novels often set in exotic destinations. She grew up in the suburbs of Brisbane surrounded by bush. When she was 11, her family moved to South America, an adventure that gave Jennifer a lifetime love of travel and exotic international locations.

Married with two children, Jennifer has a graduate business degree and completed an MBA where she was presented with the Rupert Murdoch Fellowship.

Jennifer spent the first 20 years of her career in corporate marketing and management consulting roles, but began writing romance when she moved with her family to Byron Bay in Northern NSW, seven years ago.

Chapter One

Zara Ravensdale stood on the stone steps of her centuries-old ancestral home. She drummed her fingers frantically against her thigh. Had she done enough?

She leaned against one of the sandstone pillars. A small chunk of stone fell away and hit the ground, disintegrating. Zara quickly swept the dust aside with her foot, ensuring any evidence of Ravensdale Manor's dereliction was eradicated.

The manor had been in her family for over four hundred years, but that could soon come to an abrupt end. Three months. Only three months. She expelled a long, slow breath. That was all the time she had left.

She rubbed her gritty eyes. She'd been up since five organising the final preparations for her mystery guest. No name had been supplied, and he was coming alone. Ravensdale boasted over fifty rooms, and she'd set the rental price at fifteen thousand pounds a week. She'd thought the place would attract large parties of friends, not lone guests in search of privacy. The woman who'd made the reservation on behalf of her boss had emphasised the need for complete confidentiality and absolute discretion.

A vehicle rumbled in the distance. Nausea hit Zara's stomach. She smoothed her hands down her perfectly ironed trousers and drew her shoulders back.

She could make this work. She would make this work. She'd show the bank she could repay the crippling debt and transform Ravensdale into a profitable venture.

A filthy tradesman's van advanced up the drive. She pressed her lips together. Not now. She couldn't deal with tradesmen now. Her guest must be received in grand style; grand and private. She couldn't afford a bad review from her first paying customer.

Stepping down onto the circular gravel drive, she waved for the vehicle to go round the back. The driver ignored her and stopped in front of the entrance. The muscles in her jaw tensed. Racing around to the driver's side, she knocked on the glass. The driver didn't lower his window. She knocked again, louder.

'I'm sorry,' she shouted at the tinted glass. She could tell by the size of the driver that it was a man. A very inconsiderate man. 'You have to go around the back.' She pointed and gesticulated, clearly indicating where the van needed to go. The man cut the engine and opened the door. Her eyes narrowed.

'Excuse me,' she said, her tone now sharp. 'You need to move your van.' She glanced anxiously down the drive. 'Now!'

The man eased himself slowly from the cab as smoothly as a seasoned cowboy dismounting from a winning streak in the rodeo ring. The tension across her shoulders tightened. Was the man deaf?

Her gaze ran up long legs, past slim hips encased in old jeans, and reached a broad chest. The man's feet hit the ground and he towered over her. She rammed her hands on her hips, bracing for an altercation.

'You need to move . . .' Her eyes met his. Her heart stopped as though it'd been snap-frozen. She stumbled back a step. 'Xavier.'

She stared, blinking inanely. He didn't speak. She couldn't. Her eyes raked his body and face again. Was it really him? The seventeen-year-old she'd known so well, who had since morphed into one of the most famous men on global television?

Xavier Hunt slammed the door. His lips curved up on one side. That lopsided heart-stopping smile she'd loved so much was unchanged. She fought the desire to run her fingers over the dark stubble covering his cheeks and chin, so sexy, so masculine, so hot. His nearly-black eyes sparkled as they'd always done, as though he knew a great secret.

'I usually find I'm greeted with, 'Good morning, Mr Hunt. May I take your bags, Mr Hunt?' Or, 'Nice to see you back. I hope you enjoy your stay . . . Mr Hunt.''

What was he saying? She opened her mouth to speak but her mind raced with so many memories. She'd often wondered what would happen if they ever came face-to-face. She'd run the scenario in her head countless times. In each of her mental role-plays she'd remained cool and indifferent, not speechless and stupid.

'What . . . What are you doing here?' she managed, unable to keep the abject shock from her voice. She knew from occasionally reading about him online that he spent most of his time in the US, where he'd made his billion-dollar fortune.

'No. I've never been greeted with that one.' His tone was flippant, as though they didn't have years of tortured history between them. He reached into the cab of his van and pulled out a worn brown leather satchel and slung it over his shoulder. He walked toward the pillared entrance of the manor.

He moved as though the whole world was watching and he didn't give a damn. So confident and forceful. His simple clothes belied the extraordinary fame of the man.

Of course she'd seen him on his world-famous gardening show and that one time across a crowded room, but . . . But he was nothing like the lanky teenager who'd left Ravensdale in a police van, screaming for revenge.

'Xavier, wait.' She raced after him. This was a disaster. Xavier arriving when her first guest was due. She blocked his path. 'What are you doing here?' She glanced over her shoulder down the drive. 'It's . . . Well, I've got someone arriving. Someone is coming to stay. A guest. An important guest.' God, she was babbling. She took a deep breath. 'Could you please move the truck and wait for me in the kitchen?'

'Hmm.' He stepped in close. She could smell him. Even after all these years, that intoxicating aroma was the same . . . raw masculinity, earthiness and sunshine. Her body flushed with heat. She sucked in a breath, stunned he still had the power to make her heart flutter.

'Did losing all the family money knock out some of your mental faculties, Zara?' He tapped her forehead with his fingertips.

She jerked back. 'I beg your pardon.' For a man who'd dropped in unannounced he was certainly taking a lot of liberties, even if he had once called Ravensdale home.

His look seemed to ask: Are you the world's greatest imbecile?

'I'm the guest,' he said slowly, as though speaking to someone with limited intelligence.

The muscles in her back and neck pulled rigid. Her hand landed heavily on her breastbone. 'You . . . You can't be.' Xavier would never willingly come back here. He'd made that clearer than the finest Bohemian crystal all those years ago.

'Why?' He hitched an eyebrow. 'Do you have a blue-bloods only policy?' His words struck like a stinging slap in the cheek.

'You know I'm not like that.'

Bringing his face down, inches from her own, his hypnotic eyes pinned her to the spot. She resisted the urge to step away, and held her breath. She didn't want to reveal how his presence sent a quiver of fear up her spine.

'You know, Zara,' his voice was low and deliberate, 'there was a time when I thought I knew everything there was to know about you. That we had trust and a bond so strong, nothing in the world could break it.' The weight of his words seemed to drive her into the ground. 'But I was wrong. My time at Ravensdale Manor, and knowing people like you, taught me a valuable life lesson.'

He walked toward the house then stopped, turned slightly and tossed her his keys.

'Bags are in the back.' His tone and body language communicated everything.

You are nothing and no one to me.

Zara's hands shook so much she fumbled the catch and the keys hit the ground. The sharp jangle reverberated through her nerves. She felt lowlier than a scullery maid of yesteryear.

Xavier strode up the steps as though it had been in his family since the seventeenth century and disappeared into the manor.

She placed a hand on the bonnet of the van and leaned in heavily. Her pulse throbbed. Breathing deeply, she willed her quivering body under control.

Two weeks. Xavier was booked in for two weeks. How was she going to survive one day in the same house as the man she'd loved since she was eleven? The man she'd lost one terrible night. The man who hated her and everything Ravensdale. The man who burned for savage revenge.

Xavier strode into the magnificent entry hall of his childhood home. The dim, cool marble-lined space did nothing to douse the flames of passion burning through his body. Zara was even more beautiful than she had been the day he'd left Ravensdale. She'd been sixteen when he was hauled away. Now she was a stunning woman. A woman who still heated his blood and caused his body to hum with unabashed desire.

But so what? That was simply a physical reaction to an attractive woman. It didn't mean he'd lost sight of what and who she was . . . a superficial aristocrat who abandoned a special friendship when things got tricky.

He dragged his fingers through his hair. Of course he'd wondered if he'd see Zara during his UK stay, but he hadn't counted on running into her the moment he arrived. His sources had informed him she lived permanently in London. He licked his bone-dry lips. Someone had some explaining to do.

Studying the hall, he instantly clocked the deterioration. The faded paintwork, small holes in the plaster, the threadbare carpets. An ache hit his stomach. So sad to see such a majestic building in decline. Ravensdale had obviously only achieved its four-star rating due to its magnificence and history, not for its upkeep. However, the place was spotless. He could imagine Zara ticking off the tasks from one of her many detailed to-do lists.

He looked outside. Zara had retrieved his keys from the ground. He thrust his hands into his pockets. Throwing them to her like that had been low, but being in such close proximity to her had dragged up all those feelings he'd strived so diligently to master. To conquer. To obliterate.

She still moved so gracefully. All those years of private dance tuition and dressage training. Her honey-blonde hair was scraped back into a sleek, tight ponytail that accentuated her high cheekbones. The simplicity of her black trousers and crisp white shirt couldn't disguise the gorgeous body that lay beneath. He frowned. Gorgeous but too thin. He turned away and fought back unexpected and annoying feelings of concern. It was nothing to him if Zara didn't look after herself.

Walking into the sitting room off to the left, he was instantly confronted by a portrait of Zara. It had obviously been painted a few years earlier. Those piercing green, come-to-bed eyes stared down at him. Their effect on him was the same as when they'd been teenagers. His body had tightened and smouldered the moment he'd met her gaze outside.

He walked back into the hall. What was Zara doing here? From her website, it looked like she'd built a successful interior design business in London. Why was she hosting guests at the manor? He'd hoped to come and stay, assess the place, have a few weeks' peace writing his new book, and leave, ready to secure the property as soon as the bank repossessed the estate in three months' time. He knew her father was safely out of the way in an aged-care facility in a nearby town. His lip curled and he beat down the hatred. He would not entertain any thoughts about bloody Lord Hugh Ravensdale.

He looked outside. Zara Ravensdale. Lady Zara Ravensdale. God, how he'd loved that girl.

She'd been his whole world when he was seventeen. Her betrayal . . . Stop. He forced his mind to cease its destructive spiral. He was here to draw a line under that part of his life. Face the past, buy the past, turn it into something positive and move on.

Zara pulled open the back door of his van and tugged at his bag. He frowned. What was she doing? He looked about. Where was the porter? Silly girl. She'd hurt herself.

She struggled with the bag, hauled it onto her shoulder and leaned in for his briefcase.

For God's sake. It didn't matter who Zara was, he couldn't watch any woman break her back. He strode out.

'What are you doing?' he demanded. 'Leave the bags. Let the porter get them.'

'No,' she said, her voice strained. 'I can manage.'

He cocked his head and considered her a moment. Zara had grown up with myriad staff to manage her every need. She'd never taken undue advantage, but she had a different view of the world. She was born into wealth and excess and had never had to work for it. No matter how much she acted like an everyday girl, she wasn't. So this bag carrying . . . it was just weird. Weird and ridiculous.

She hoisted his heavy briefcase to the edge of the car seat and braced to lift it.

'As much as I'm enjoying watching you toil on my behalf, I won't have you carry my bags,' Xavier said.

'Why not?' she said, tensing to give it a red-hot go.

'Because I don't want my things dropped on your ancient marble floors.' And you'll damage a disc!

'Don't be ridiculous. I won't drop them.'

He took his bag from her shoulder. She struggled in protest but she was no match for him.

'Don't you have people to do this for you?' he asked. 'Aren't you just the token aristocratic greeting party?' He reached for his briefcase but she held fast and shut the van door.

'I have a few staff off sick,' she said, leading the way up the steps into the hall.

'A few? The place is like a morgue.'

She threw him a flinty look but replaced it quickly with a neutral expression. Ah! He'd hit a nerve.

It looked as if the place needed about twenty million pounds just to fix the obvious maintenance problems. The front lawn was freshly mown, but the rest of the grounds couldn't have been touched in years. His heart ached at the neglect. To the untrained eye it probably looked rustic and charming. To the professional, it was clear the garden was dying.

'I can assure you it won't affect your stay,' she said, walking ahead of him up the sweeping mahogany staircase. The same steps creaked as they'd done fifteen years ago. He smiled at the familiarity. A year after he'd arrived at the manor, he and Zara had discovered a priest hole under the stairs when they'd been playing hide and seek. It was one of the many treasures they'd discovered together on the grand estate. Those years had been magical.

'It better not,' he said, in a flat, hard voice. 'I've come here for peace, quiet and privacy.'

'That I assure you I will deliver.'

'Are you telling me you are the only staff?'

'No,' she said, the defensiveness clear in her tone. 'I've organised some relief staff to come in from time to time.' The way she said it confirmed that Zara Ravensdale would be the primary service provider during his stay. He clasped the handle of his bag more firmly. Close proximity to Zara had not been part of the 'face your past and move on' plan. He'd hoped to achieve that through a simple financial transaction.

No. With every movement, with every word, with every look from those exquisite green eyes, Zara brought back the past and slammed it straight into his heart.

Zara opened the door to her parents' room. Well, what used to be her parents' room. Now it was the Ravensdale Suite. The best room in the house. Originally designed as the bedchamber of one of the most privileged men in England, the room was huge with lavish, if a little faded, decoration. The massive windows poured the summer light into the room.

'Your room,' she announced in a voice she hoped was back on a professional footing. She could still feel the fire in her cheeks from the humiliation of turning into a mute idiot in front of Xavier when he'd arrived.

So she hadn't seen him properly in fifteen years. So she'd been in love with him since she was eleven years old. So she'd been duped like everyone else into believing he and his father were just good hardworking folk, not the sleek conmen they were later revealed to be.

That was all a lifetime ago. Xavier had done his time in juvenile detention and then left the country. She'd only seen him once since that fateful night and that had been fleeting. Fleeting and painful.

'Your parents' room?' Xavier said with a distasteful inflection.

'I can make up another room if you prefer,' she said quickly.

'No. That won't be necessary.' He dumped his bag on the seat at the base of the enormous four-poster bed. 'I like that I'm now able to enter this forbidden room.'

His tone possessed an alarming icy quality. The hairs on her forearms stood straight up. Why was he back here?

'I've stripped the place of anything valuable.' The words tumbled out before she could check them. A ghastly wedge of horror shot though her belly. 'I didn't . . . I'm sorry . . .' Dropping her gaze to the floor, she pulled on her ponytail. She didn't know how to be around Xavier any more. Didn't know where or how to pick up from where they'd left off. She picked at imaginary lint on her trousers. They'd been so close, due to their history, but were now complete strangers.

'Well, that's lucky, isn't it,' he said. His tone was as conversational as before she'd dropped her accusatory bombshell. 'Although you've left the paintings.' He walked over to one of the original artworks that adorned the walls and studied it. It was a picture of an earlier Lord Ravensdale painted in the 1800s. 'Original.'

He turned and fixed her with a stare so stony, she took a step back. 'They'd fetch a nice price at auction and they'd fit in the back of my van. If I do decide to steal them, you can bill me.'

A hot flush climbed up her neck all the way to the tips of her ears. 'Xavier. I didn't mean . . . I . . .'

What could she say? I don't understand why you stole from my family and ended up in jail. I don't understand why you didn't answer any of my letters except for that one bitter and vicious diatribe, letting me know how much you hated me. I don't understand why, after all these years, you've come back.

'I don't know how to be around you any more,' she said, hoping he'd explain it to her. How were they supposed to interact after so much tragedy? So much painful history.

'Then don't be,' he said. 'I've come here to write. I don't want to be disturbed by the media, my staff or anyone else, and especially not by you.'

The final word sliced straight through her heart. A few moments of stifling silence beat between them.

'Well,' she said, trying to bring some lightness back into the conversation. 'Dinner will be served at seven if that suits.'

'Fine.' He turned his back and unzipped his bag. It was clearly the signal that she was dismissed, but her feet wouldn't move. She simply stood staring at the stranger who'd once been her sun, her moon and her stars. Finally he looked up.

'That will be all, thank you,' he said and waved her away as he'd always done as a joke when they'd been kids. But this rendition came with no frivolity.

'Why did you come here?' she asked, and her voice sounded tiny and far away. 'Of all places.' Wouldn't this be the last place on earth he'd ever want to see again? What would he do if he knew her father was installed at a nursing home a few miles away? His last words to her father had been terrifying.

'Because it's quiet, it's cheap, it offers privacy.' He walked over to the enormous bay windows and stood with his back to her. 'And I have some demons to be rid of and I want them to return to whence they came,' he said in a low voice.

A sickening icy shiver lashed down her spine. Had he intended her to hear that last sentence? Ravensdale Manor had been the cause of Xavier's youthful downfall. Was he here to fulfil that terrifying vow of revenge?

It wasn't until Zara left, closing the bedroom door softly behind her, that Xavier realised every muscle was as rigid as coiled steel. He let his shoulders drop and breathed deeply using the meditation technique he'd learned to manage stress . . . Well, to manage his anger.

His anger. His plans for revenge. The fire that had burned to destroy Ravensdale. He'd run so viciously on that poison for so many years. On barely controlled fury and complex plans of retribution. The result: an emergency hospital admission with severe heart palpitations at twenty-nine.

He ran his hand across his chest. He'd never forget those terrifying days of endless examinations and a constant stream of medical staff. But it had proved to be the turning point in his life.

While doctors ran a series of tests, he'd met one of America's richest men, Evan Knight. They'd become friends in between procedures and doctors' lectures. Although Evan was seventy he was fit, agile, incredibly interesting and gave great advice.

Never let anyone else dictate your actions. Evan had repeated this statement over and over until Xavier had finally understood. His life was being ruled by the past. By what had happened to him at Ravensdale. From that day on he'd written his own life's script.

Reaching into his bag, he began to unpack. He stowed his clothes in the antique chest of drawers.

He thought of Evan often. His hospital buddy had been at the forefront of computer technology in the eighties. His endeavours reaped billions. More money than he could ever hope to spend before he died.

Every day streams of people had come to visit him – people from all walks of life – and they all clearly loved him. When Xavier had asked Evan how he knew such a diverse group of people, he'd told him the last time he'd been in this private ward of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, no one had come to see him. Not even his mother. His life had been ruled by making money, wreaking revenge on competitors who crossed him. He had basically been an unscrupulous arsehole.

The fear of dying alone had transformed him. This time Evan wouldn't make it out of the hospital; the cancer would take him. A cancer he was convinced was born of those years of aggression. But now he'd die happy.

Xavier walked to the window and laid his hand on the glass.

It had been in that moment at the hospital that Xavier had realised what he'd become, and how ashamed his father would be of him. In that moment everything had changed.

During the last year of Evan's life, Xavier had been the sick man's constant companion. Evan taught him so much about life and how to live it honestly, happily and with integrity – all the things Xavier had forgotten while buried in his anger and desire for revenge.

Evan appointed Xavier the head of his Youth in Crisis charity. It was there that all Evan's lessons really made an impression. Working with kids with serious problems turned Xavier's focus back into the world, away from the darkness in his soul.

When Evan had died, Xavier was shocked to be left a huge proportion of Evan's estate, catapulting him from self-made millionaire to overnight billionaire. Evan's only message was: Live well. Xavier had tried to honour that advice ever since.

That had been three years ago. His visit to Ravensdale would be the end of a long road to redemption. He'd reconcile his past and move on with his life. He would live well, with the stain of his past wiped away by the transformation of Ravensdale.

The room suddenly brightened as a cloud moved away from the sun. He stared out at the beautiful view. The thatched roofs of the village could be seen in the distance above the trees. Off to the left was the walled garden. The secret garden. The place of so many happy memories. Of that kiss. His body warmed. He ran his fingers across his lips. He could even see the place where it happened. He rubbed his chin. He'd never realised how much of the secret garden you could see from this window.

Touching the pane, he remembered how he'd run through the night after being released from the local police station on bail. Lord Ravensdale himself had bailed him out. But Xavier hadn't been fooled by the lord's benevolence. He'd known Hugh Ravensdale was responsible for his incarceration. He'd wanted Xavier to pay. Ravensdale must have planted the airline tickets and jewels in his room. Made that bogus phone call to the antiques dealer. When Xavier arrived at the fancy manor gates that fateful night, he'd stripped off his jacket and used it to carry as many rocks he could. Driven by a blinding fury, he'd destroyed every downstairs window before the cops had arrived. That act of youthful stupidity had sealed his fate.

Zara walked into view. He leaned closer to the glass. His breaths came a little faster, fogging up the pane. He dug his teeth into his bottom lip. So what if Zara still made his pulse jump? Her pretty face disguised a woman of no substance.

She walked over to the vegetable garden – the only part of the grounds that looked tended apart from the lawn. She dropped to her knees and began digging. He furrowed his brow. First, carrying the bags, and now digging potatoes for dinner? Why was Zara Ravensdale behaving more like a servant than the lady of the manor?

Pushing away from the window, he picked up his empty bag and threw it into the base of the wardrobe. What did he care? He stripped off his clothes and headed for the shower.

He'd grill Zara at dinner. Find out everything. He was here to complete his due diligence, as he did with all his major investments. Having Zara here wouldn't make any difference to his plans. In a few weeks, Ravensdale Manor would be his. Then he would have his absolution.

ISBN: 9781760142117
ISBN-10: 1760142115
Series: The Billionaires Romance Series
Format: ePUB
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 182
Published: 15th September 2015
Edition Type: Digital original

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