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.
Her eyes strayed from Xavier’s handiwork to his muscled shoulders flexing under a white cotton shirt. She paused. The sweat-stained fabric gave extra definition to the glory that lay beneath. She grazed her teeth over her bottom lip. All that physical labour and an outdoor lifestyle had given Xavier the body of a god. Sculpted, tanned and hot. So unbelievably hot.
‘You just going to stand there, or come over for a proper look?’ Xavier called without looking up.
Her pulse spiked. God. Had he caught her gawking?
She strode forward as though she hadn’t been sprung ogling. ‘Xavier, this is incredible,’ she breathed.
He rocked back on his heels and threw her a killer smile. Her belly performed a little fluttery dance.
‘Not too bad for a couple of hours’ effort,’ he said, casting a critical eye over his work.
She moved to the far end of the garden to appreciate the splendour from another angle.
‘How did you do this?’ she asked.
‘Nothing a quick run to the local nursery couldn’t fix.’ Xavier’s brow creased. ‘But it’s not finished yet.’
‘What are you talking about?’ She bent down and smelled a gorgeous scarlet flower. ‘What else do you need to do? It’s perfect.’
‘Needs to be watered in and mulched. I’ll do it after lunch.’
He stood and pulled off his gardening gloves and dropped them on the grass. Stripping off his shirt, he wiped it across his sweat-glistening chest. She sucked in a quick breath. The physical nature of his job was evident in his perfectly defined muscles and golden skin.
‘I . . . I can water it,’ she said, trying to focus on the floral display and not his delicious body and the effect it was having on her own. ‘You’re supposed to be writing your book.’
‘You!’ he exclaimed, drawing his arm across his brow, giving her a beautiful view of taut muscle. She ran her tongue across her dry lips.
‘I want the garden to live,’ he quipped. ‘If you step any closer, these flowers will wilt with fright.’
She thrust her hands on her hips. ‘I’m not that bad.’
‘Oh no,’ he said with a laugh wrapped up with irony. ‘You just have that magic touch for turning everything green into a nice shade of brown.’
He flicked his finger down her nose. A teasing gesture from their childhood. His simple, intimate touch sent a quiver of delight through her veins. God, she’d missed him. Missed this. Having someone who knew her so well. Someone who knew her inadequacies and found them endearing. Someone who knew the dull pain of grief that never left.
‘Just because I couldn’t grow anything then doesn’t mean I’m a rubbish gardener now.’
‘Oh yes.’ He grinned. ‘I can see how well the place has fared under your gentle touch,’ he said, sweeping his hand around to encompass the almost derelict garden.
‘Hey.’ She slapped his arm. ‘I only took over managing this place six months ago when Dad had to go into care. It takes time and love to build something special.’
A spark of merriment flashed in his eyes. ‘Read that somewhere, did you?’
She swallowed. Oh God. She had. In his latest gardening volume. She couldn’t believe she’d quoted his lines back to him.
‘Ah . . .’
Jennifer St George is a best-selling romance author whose sexy stories feature courageous, career-minded heroines and strong heroes in glamorous international settings. She has six books published with Penguin Book’s digital-first imprint, Destiny Romance. Jennifer spent the first 25 years of her career in the corporate world travelling the globe. Many of the exotic locations she’s visited feature in her stories. Jennifer now lives in gorgeous Byron Bay, Australia and writes to the sound of the waves with a view of the beach.