The Millionaire's Revenge

By: Cathy Williams

CHAPTER ONE

Gabriel Greppi stood outside the compact, ivy-clad Victorian house for a few minutes, his hands thrust into the pockets of his beaten suede jacket. He glanced up to­wards the left of the house, and saw that her room was in darkness. It would be. She would be at the stables now, even though it was after nine and the countryside was sunk in the frozen grip of winter.

The thought of her brought a smile to his lips. For her, he would go through this, but it wouldn’t always be this way. He knew it. Could feel it in his bones. Knocking on the door of this house and being made to feel like a beggar, a distasteful presence to be endured by her parents with that particularly freezing politeness so typical of the British upper crust. No, things would change. He was only twenty-two and it might be a long haul, but things would change.

He hardened his jaw and pressed his finger to the door­bell, listening to it resound through the house, then he lounged against the doorframe and waited until the door was cautiously pulled open. Gabriel was tempted to ask whether they were expecting bandits to ring the bell before entering the house, but he refrained. A keen sense of hu­mour had never been one of Peter Jackson’s striking qual­ities, although that might just have been towards him.

‘Greppi. What brings you here, boy?’

Gabriel gritted his teeth together and summoned up all his self-control not to respond with something he would live to regret.

‘Could I have a word with you, Mr Jackson?’ He insin­uated his foot through the small opening, just in case Peter Jackson gave in to the temptation to slam the door in his face.

‘What, now? Can’t it wait?’

Peter Jackson gave an impatient click of his tongue and regarded Gabriel’s dark, handsome face with irritation, then he reluctantly pulled open the door and stepped back. ‘If you’ve come to see my daughter, then you can start heading back to that house of yours, boy. Laura’s in bed and I have no intention of getting her out of it at this ungodly hour.’

‘It’s nine o’clock.’

‘Precisely.’

‘And I haven’t come to see Laura, I have come to you. You and your wife.’ Gabriel fought to maintain his composure but, under his weathered jacket and faded jeans, every muscle in his hard body had tensed.

That stopped Peter Jackson in his tracks. He paused and narrowed his blue eyes. ‘I hope you don’t intend to ask any favours of me, boy, because I can tell you right now that the answer is a resounding negative. I am not in the habit of bailing out anyone financially.’

‘I have not come here to ask for money.’ He kept his tone as polite as he could, but the derision underneath was unmistakable and the older man’s mouth tightened.

‘Then say what you have to say and leave.’

This was turning out to be a big mistake. He had chosen to take the honourable path and now he wondered what had possessed him.

‘Perhaps I could speak with your wife as well.’

‘Oh, very well. But you’ll have to be brief. My wife is not a well woman. She needs to get to bed at a reasonable hour.’ He turned and began walking towards the snug and

Gabriel followed behind him, slightly taller and with the easy, graceful stride of someone attuned with his body.

‘Lizzie, darling, we have an unexpected visitor. No, no need to get up. It’s just Greppi.’

Elizabeth Jackson sat in one of the big, padded arm­chairs, a fragile figure but with the stunning prettiness of a woman who even now, in her mid-fifties, could still make heads turn. The classic English rose who exuded good breeding from every one of her fingertips. Neither invited him to sit, nor was he offered a drink, although both were, he could tell, curious to find out what the hell he was doing in their house at the unseemly hour of nine in the evening.

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