Engaged To Her Ravensdale Enemy
Series: The Ravensdale Scandals
When Jasmine Connolly’s third engagement is broken off, she decides to make her man jealous by enlisting the help of her enemy, playboy Jake Ravensdale! Jasmine may never have forgiven him for his rejection years ago, but the heartless lothario is the perfect candidate for her plan.
As tensions build, the line between love and hate increasingly blurs, teetering on the brink of explosion! Jasmine might be wearing Jake’s ring, but she can’t let go of the hurt he once caused her. Because if she does, what’s to stop her from falling prey to the Ravensdale playboy’s charms…?
An Excerpt from Engaged To Her Ravensdale Enemy
It wasn’t giving back the engagement ring Jasmine Connolly was most worried about. She had two more sitting in her jewellery box in her flat in Mayfair above her bridal-wear shop. It was the feeling of being rejected. Again. What was wrong with her? Why wasn’t she good enough? She hadn’t been good enough for her mother. Why did the people she cared about always leave her?
But that wasn’t all that had her stomach knotting in panic. It was attending the winter wedding expo next weekend in the Cotswolds as a singleton. How could she front up sans fiancé? She might as well turn up at the plush hotel she’d booked months and months ago with ‘loser’ written on her forehead. She had so looked forward to that expo. After a lot of arm-twisting she had secured a slot in the fashion parade. It was her first catwalk show and it had the potential to lead to bigger and more important ones.
But it wasn’t just about designing wedding gowns. She loved everything to do with weddings. The commitment to have someone love you for the rest of your life, not just while it was convenient or while it suited them. Love was supposed to be for ever. Every time she designed a gown she stitched her own hopes into it. What if she never got to wear one of her own gowns? What sort of cruel irony would that be?
She glanced at her empty ring finger where it was gripping the steering wheel. She wished she’d thought to shove on one of her spares just so she didn’t have to explain to everyone that she was—to quote Myles—‘taking a break’.
It didn’t matter how he termed it, it all meant the same thing as far as Jaz was concerned. She was dumped. Jilted. Cast off. Single.
Forget about three times a bridesmaid, she thought sourly. What did it mean if you were three times a dumped fiancée?
It meant you sucked at relationships. Really sucked.
Jaz parked the car in her usual spot at Ravensdene, the family pile of the theatre-royalty family where she had grown up as the gardener’s daughter and surrogate sister to Miranda Ravensdale and her older twin brothers, Julius and Jake.
Miranda had just got herself engaged. Damn. It.
Jaz was thrilled for her best mate. Of course she was. Miranda and Leandro Allegretti were perfect for each other. No one deserved a happy ending more than those two.
But why couldn’t she have hers?
Jaz put her head down against the steering wheel and banged it three times. Argh!
There was a sound of a car growling as it came up the long driveway. Jaz straightened and quickly got out of her car and watched as the Italian sports car ate up the gravel with its spinning tyres, spitting out what it didn’t want in spraying arcs of flying stones. It felt like a fistful of those stones were clenched between her back molars as the car came to a dusty standstill next to hers.
Jacques, otherwise known as Jake, Ravensdale unfolded his tall, athletic frame from behind the wheel with animal grace. Jaz knew it was Jake and not his identical twin brother Julius because she had always been able to tell them apart. Not everyone could, but she could. She felt the difference in her body. Her body got all tingly and feverish, restless and antsy whenever Jake was around. It was as if her body picked up a signal from his and it completely scrambled her motherboard.
His black hair was sexily tousled and wind-blown. Another reason to hate him, because she knew if she had just driven with the top down in that chilly October breeze her hair would have looked like a tangled fishing net. He was dressed casually because everything about Jake was casual, including his relationships—if you could call hook-ups and one-night stands relationships.
His dark-blue gaze was hidden behind designer aviator lenses but she could see a deep frown grooved into his forehead. At least it was a change from his stock-standard mocking smile. ‘What the hell are you doing here?’ he said.
Jaz felt another millimetre go down on her molars. ‘Nice to see you too, Jake,’ she said with a sugar-sweet smile. ‘How’s things? Had that personality transplant yet?’
He took off his sunglasses and continued to frown at her. ‘You’re supposed to be in London.’
Jaz gave him a wide-eyed, innocent look. ‘Am I?’
‘I checked with Miranda,’ he said, clicking shut the driver’s door with his foot. ‘She said you were going to a party with Tim at his parents’ house.’
‘It’s Myles,’ she said. ‘Tim was my…erm…other one.’
The corner of his mouth lifted. ‘Number one or number two?’
It was extremely annoying how he made her ex-fiancés sound like bodily waste products, Jaz thought. Not that she didn’t think of them that way too these days, but still. ‘Number two,’ she said. ‘Lincoln was my first.’
Jake turned to pop open the boot of the car with his remote device. ‘So where’s lover-boy Myles?’ he said. ‘Is he planning on joining you?’
Jaz knew she shouldn’t be looking at the way Jake’s dark-blue denim jeans clung to his taut behind as he bent forward to get his overnight bag but what was a girl to do? He was built like an Olympic athlete. Lean and tanned with muscles in all the right places and in places where her exes didn’t have them and never would. He was fantasy fodder. Ever since her hormones had been old enough to take notice, that was exactly what they had done. Which was damned inconvenient, since she absolutely, unreservedly loathed him. ‘No…erm…he’s staying in town to do some work,’ she said. ‘After the party, I mean.’
Jake turned back to look at her with a glinting smile. ‘You’ve broken up.’
Jaz hated it that he didn’t pose it as a question but as if it were a given. Another Jasmine Connolly engagement bites the dust. Not that she was going to admit it to him of all people. ‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ she said. ‘What on earth makes you think that? Just because I chose to spend the weekend down here while I work on Holly’s dress instead of partying in town doesn’t mean I’m—’
‘Where’s that flashy rock you’ve been brandishing about?’
Jaz used her left hand to flick her hair back over her shoulder in what she hoped was a casual manner. ‘It’s in London. I don’t like wearing it when I’m working.’ Which at least wasn’t a complete lie. The ring was in London, safely in Myles’ family jewellery vault. It miffed her Myles hadn’t let her keep it. Not even for a few days till she got used to the idea of ‘taking a break’. So what if it was a family heirloom? He had plenty of money. He could buy any number of rings. But no, he had to have it back, which meant she was walking around with a naked ring finger because she’d been too upset, angry and hurt to grab one of her other rings on her way out of the flat.
How galling if Jake were the first person to find out she had jinxed another relationship. How could she bear it? He wouldn’t be sympathetic and consoling. He would roll about the floor laughing, saying, I told you so.
Jake hooked his finger through the loop on the collar of his Italian leather jacket and slung it over his shoulder. ‘You’d better make yourself scarce if you’re not in the mood for a party. I have guests arriving in an hour.’
Jaz’s stomach dropped like a lift with snapped cables. ‘Guests?’
His shoes crunched over the gravel as he strode towards the grand old Elizabethan mansion’s entrance. ‘Yep, the ones that eat and drink and don’t sleep.’
She followed him into the house feeling like a teacup Chihuahua trying to keep up with an alpha wolf. ‘What the hell? How many guests? Are they all female?’
He flashed her a white-toothed smile. ‘You know me so well.’
Jaz could feel herself lighting up with lava-hot heat. Most of it burned in her cheeks at the thought of having to listen to him rocking on with a harem of his Hollywood wannabes. Unlike his identical twin brother Julius and his younger sister Miranda, who did everything they could to distance themselves from their parents’ fame, Jake cashed in on it. Big time. He was shameless in how he exploited it for all it was worth—which wasn’t much, in Jaz’s opinion. She had been the victim of his exploitative tactics when she’d been sixteen on the night of one of his parents’ legendary New Year’s Eve parties. He had led her on to believe he was serious about…
But she never thought about that night in his bedroom. Never.
‘You can’t have a party,’ Jaz said as shefollowed him into the house. ‘Mrs Eggleston’s away. She’s visiting her sister in Bath.’
‘Which is why I’ve chosen this weekend,’ he said. ‘Don’t worry. I’ve organised the catering.’
Jaz folded her arms and glowered at him. ‘And I bet I know what’s on the menu.’ Him. Being licked and ego-stroked by a bevy of bimbo airheads who drank champagne like it was water and ate nothing in case they put on an ounce. She only hoped they were all of age.
‘You want to join us?’
Jaz jerked her chin back against her neck and made a scoffing noise. ‘Are you out of your mind? I couldn’t think of anything worse than watching a bunch of wannabe starlets get taken in by your particular version of charm. I’d rather chew razor blades.’
He shrugged one of his broad shoulders as if he didn’t care either way. ‘No skin off my nose.’
Jaz thought she would like to scratch every bit of skin off that arrogant nose. She hadn’t been alone with him in years. There had always been other members of his family around whenever they’d come to Ravensdene. Why hadn’t Eggles told her he would be here? Mrs Eggleston, the long-time housekeeper, knew how much Jaz hated Jake.
Everyone knew it. The feud between them had gone on for seven years. The air crackled with static electricity when they were in the same room even if there were crowds of other people around. The antagonism she felt towards Jake had grown exponentially every year. He had a habit of looking at her a certain way, as if he was thinking back to that night in his room when she had made the biggest fool of herself. His dark-blue eyes would take on a mocking gleam as if he could remember every inch of her body where it had been lying waiting for him in his bed in nothing but her underwear.
She gave a mental cringe. Yes, her underwear. What had she been thinking? Why had she fallen for it? What hadn’t she realised he’d been playing her for a fool? The humiliation he had subjected her to, the shame, the embarrassment of being hauled out of his bed in front of his… Grrhh! She would not think about it.
She. Would. Not.
Jaz’s father wasn’t even here to referee. He was away on a cruise of the Greek Islands with his new wife. Her father didn’t belong to Jaz any more—not that he ever had. His work had always been more important than her. How could a garden, even one as big as the one at Ravensdene, be more important than his only child? But no, now he belonged to Angela.
Going back to London was out of the question. Jaz wasn’t ready to announce the pause on her engagement. Not yet. Not until she knew for sure it was over. Not even to Miranda. Not while there was a slither of hope. All she had to do was make Myles see what he was missing out on. She was his soul mate. Of course she was. Everybody said so. Well, maybe not everybody, but she didn’t need everyone’s approval. Not even his parents’ approval, which was a good thing, considering they didn’t like her. But then, they were horrid toffee-nosed snobs and she didn’t like them either.
Jaz did everything for Myles. She cooked, she cleaned, she organised his social calendar. She turned her timetable upside down and inside out so she could be available for him. She even had sex with him when she didn’t feel like it. Which was more often than not, for some strange reason. Was that why Myles wanted a break? Because she wasn’t sexually assertive enough? Not raunchy enough? She could do raunchy. She could wear dress-up costumes and play games. She would hate it but if it won him back she would do it. Other men found her attractive. Sure they did.
She was fighting off men all the time. She wasn’t vain but she knew she had the package: the looks, the figure, the face and the hair. And she was whip-smart. She had her own bridal design company and she was not quite twenty-four.
Sure, she’d had a bit of help from Jake’s parents, Richard and Elisabetta Ravensdale, in setting up. In fact, if it hadn’t been for them, she wouldn’t have had the brilliant education she’d had. They had stepped in when her mother had left her at Ravensdene on an access visit when she was eight and had never returned.
Not that it bothered Jaz that her mother hadn’t come back for her. Not really. She was mightily relieved she hadn’t had to go back to that cramped and mouldy, rat-infested flat in Brixton where the neighbours fought harder than the feral cats living near the garbage collection point. It was the principle of the thing that was the issue. Being left like a package on a doorstep wasn’t exactly how one expected to be treated as a young child. But still, living at the Elizabethan mansion Ravensdene in Buckinghamshire had been much preferable. It was like being at a country spa resort with acres of verdant fields, dark, shady woods and a river meandering through the property like a silver ribbon.
This was home and the Ravensdales were family.
Well, apart from Jake, of course.
Jake tossed the bag on his bed and let out a filthy curse. What the hell was Jasmine Connolly doing here? He had made sure the place was empty for the weekend. He had a plan and Jasmine wasn’t part of it. He did everything he could to avoid her. But when he couldn’t he did everything he could to annoy her. He got a kick out of seeing her clench her teeth and flash those grey-blue eyes at him like tongues of flame. She was a pain in the backside but he wasn’t going to let her dictate what he could and couldn’t do. This was his family home, not hers. She might have benefited from being raised with his kid sister Miranda but she was still the gardener’s daughter.
Jaz had been intent on marrying up since she’d been a kid. At sixteen she’d had her sights on him. On him! What a joke. He was ten years older than her; marriage hadn’t been on his radar then and it wasn’t on it now. It wasn’t even in his vocabulary.
Jaz did nothing but think about marriage. Her whole life revolved around it. She was a good designer, he had to give her that, but it surely wasn’t healthy to be so obsessed with the idea of marriage? Forty per cent of marriages ended in divorce—his parents’ being a case in point. After his father’s love-child scandal broke a month ago, it had looked like they were going to have a second one. He only hoped it wouldn’t be as acrimonious and publicly cringe-worthy as their last.
His phone beeped with an incoming message and he swore again when he checked his screen. Twenty-seven text messages and fourteen missed calls from Emma Madden. He had blocked her number but she must have borrowed someone else’s phone. He knew if he checked his spam folder there would be just as many emails with photos of the girl’s assets. Didn’t that silly little teenager go to school? Where were her parents? Why weren’t they monitoring her phone and online activity?
He was sick to the back teeth with teenaged girls with crushes. Jasmine had started it with her outrageous little stunt seven years ago. He’d had the last word on that. But this was a new era and Emma Madden wasn’t the least put off by his efforts to shake her off. He’d tried being patient. He’d tried being polite. What was he supposed to do? The fifteen-year-old was like a leech, clinging on for all she was worth. He was being stalked. By a teenager! Sending him presents at work. Turning up at his favourite haunts, at the gym, at a business lunch, which was damned embarrassing. He’d had his work cut out trying to get his client to believe he wasn’t doing a teenager. He might be a playboy but he had some standards and keeping away from underage girls was one of them.
Jake turned his phone to silent and tossed it next to his bag on the bed. He walked over to the window to look at the fields surrounding the country estate. Autumn was one of his favourite times at Ravensdene. The leaves on the deciduous trees in the garden were in their final stages of turning and the air was sharp and fresh with the promise of winter around the corner. As soon as his guests arrived he would light the fire in the sitting room, put on some music, pour the champagne, party on and post heaps of photos on social media so Emma Madden got the message.