'I intend to ensure you pay back your debt.' Jonas said. 'It's that simple.'
'Nothing with you is simple.'
This time there was a flicker of appreciation in his smile. 'Ah, you're a quick learner.'
When she said nothing he finally continued. 'I'm reopening Deveson Hall. It's been shut since my mother's death with no-one to look after it but a caretaker for the grounds.'
Ravenna frowned. A stately old home like that needed constant attention and upkeep. Not just cleaning but maintenance and ongoing repairs. One of her mother's jobs as housekeeper had been to know exactly who was working where on the rambling old place.
'It needs considerable attention.' An undercurrent of emotion coloured his words and to her surprise, Ravenna saw him scrub his hand around the back of his neck as if to ease sudden tension. His lips pursed and she could have sworn she read concern in his features.
It was the first indication she'd seen today that Jonas Deveson was capable of feeling anything softer than bitterness or contempt.
From the way he spoke he hadn't mourned his father, yet the neglect of his family home moved him?
He was more complex than she'd thought. She'd pegged him as a man who cared for nothing but his own pride.
Ravenna opened her mouth to ask why he hadn't bothered to do something about the house earlier but the answer was obvious. He'd only just inherited the place.
'That's where you come in.' Jonas' slow smile chilled her anew. 'As well as the renovation work, the Hall needs to be cleaned from top to bottom. Scrubbed till it shines.'
'You want me to be part of the crew that-?'
'Not part.' He shook his head slowly, his smile growing. 'You'll be it. Personally responsible for getting the place ready for the ball I'm hosting to celebrate the Hall's reopening.'
Ravenna couldn't prevent herself gaping. Deveson Hall had been built centuries ago when the family employed an army of servants. It was gorgeous, precious, sprawling and the complete opposite of the low maintenance residences being designed now. It was three floors of steady toil for the team her mother had overseen. Four floors if you counted the attics. Five with the cellars.
She had no doubt Jonas would include the cellars.
'One person to do all that? It's impossible!'
'There will be builders working to fix what needs repairing. You'll be responsible for getting the place ready to live in again.'
A flash of something showed in his steely eyes and Ravenna realised he was waiting for her to refuse, to toss away what she knew instinctively would be her only option apart from prison.
'Is that all?' Somehow she choked the words out.
His smile faded.
'No. If your work is of a high enough standard then you can stay on and work off the rest of your debt as my housekeeper. That's my offer. Take it or leave it.'
The dreadful irony of it didn't escape her. Her mother might have escaped Jonas Deveson's wrath but she wouldn't. He began with putting her firmly in her place, as his servant.
Her insides twisted. She'd vowed never to be anyone's servant after seeing the way her mother had been treated by so many employers. There were wealthy employers who believed service was akin to bonded slavery. Even the sheer hard work of a commercial kitchen was preferable.
Childhood taunts echoed in her ears. Her peers had viewed sharing a classroom with a servant's daughter an insult. They'd made her pay for that insult.
Ravenna had thought she'd escaped all that.
It would take years to pay off the money. Yet she had no choice. She didn't want a criminal record or a stint in prison.
She drew a breath, trying to slow her frantic pulse.
Jonas would make her time at Deveson Hall hell, but she was strong enough to cope. He couldn't throw anything at her that was worse than what she'd already faced. She pushed her shoulders back and looked him in the eye, ignoring the sizzle of heat arcing between them.
Before she could say anything he spoke again. 'Don't get ideas of history repeating itself.' His voice was glacial. 'I don't have a weakness for the hired help like my father.'
Her chin went up. With every word he degraded what Silvia and Piers had shared.
'That's a relief.' Ravenna forced the words through numb lips. 'You're not my type.'
His stony face tightened. Yet he said nothing as he waited for her to reject his preposterous scheme. Then he'd call in the police.
'How could I refuse such a generous offer? You've got yourself a housekeeper, Mr Deveson.Reviews Return