The Rock Star and the Billionaire - Demelza Carlton - ebook
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A billionaire always gets what she wants...right?  Trained from birth to take over her mother's mining empire, even a disaster at her biggest mine doesn't faze billionaire heiress Gaia Vasse. All she has to do is acquire the nearby Romance Island Resort and she can reopen her mine. Easy. Only Gaia hadn't counted on the sexy-as-sin rock star owner of the hotel, who refuses to sell. Gaia will have to decide what she wants more - the resort or the rock star. Would it be such a bad thing to mix business with pleasure?

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Contents

Title Page

Dedication

Free books

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Part 13

Part 14

Part 15

Part 16

Part 17

Part 18

Part 19

Part 20

Part 21

Part 22

Part 23

Part 24

Part 25

Part 26

Part 27

Part 28

Part 29

Part 30

Part 31

Part 32

Part 33

Part 34

Part 35

Part 36

Part 37

Part 38

Part 39

Part 40

Part 41

Part 42

Part 43

Part 44

Part 45

Part 46

Part 47

Part 48

Part 49

Part 50

Part 51

Part 52

Reviews

Free books

About the Author

The Rock Star and the

Billionaire

Demelza Carlton

This book is for all my awesome readers. Yes, you. You buy, read, love and review my books...and let me know how much you love them.

That's something not even billionaires can buy.

You rock star, you.

Copyright © 2016 Demelza Carlton

Lost Plot Press

All rights reserved.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Click here to get started – http://subscribe.demelzacarlton.com/RIR8

ONE

Only the sky cried at Morrigan Vasse's funeral. Every mourner's eyes were dry beneath the canopy of black umbrellas – including those of Morrigan's only daughter and heiress, Gaia Vasse. It wasn't that she didn't care. Gaia's emotionless exterior hid a storm of feelings that ranged from desolation at her loss to triumph at the chance to prove herself, with a strong strand of anger at her mother for dying without warning. But if there was one thing Gaia's mother had taught her, it was never to share her thoughts with her inferiors. And these people in their cheap black clothes were definitely her inferiors. They all owed Morrigan their livelihood. At least, they had until a heart attack had conquered the powerful mining magnate. Now, they and the whole of Vasse Prospecting belonged to Gaia.

"Would Miss Vasse like to say a few words?"

Gaia met the eyes of the celebrant. This was not on the carefully laid out order of service she'd paid him for. A glance at the mourners made her reconsider the refusal on the tip of her tongue, for the air of expectancy was thicker than the drizzle falling from the sky. Morrigan had always insisted on taking every opportunity to address her people, as she'd called her employees, if only to remind them that she was in charge. And Gaia was Morrigan's daughter, trained from her earliest days to take over her mother's responsibilities. She'd been pushed into public speaking in preschool, learned the principles of business before she'd finished primary school. All preparation for the life she'd live. Starting today.

Clearing her throat, Gaia waited for silence to fall before she clearly enunciated, "Vale, Mother." With practiced ease, she tossed the white lilium she'd clutched in her gloved fingers. It landed at the head of the coffin, over where Gaia imagined Morrigan's traitorous heart now lay, silenced forever.

The celebrant waited for a moment, as if he expected her to say more, but at Gaia's sharp nod, he continued the service to its merciful end. The lesser mourners tossed their flowers with less precision than Gaia, until the coffin was buried in them.

Gaia suppressed a snort. Her mother had always despised cut flowers. She'd likened them to tortured slaves. First, they were cut and separated from their parent plant, then kept alive by artificial means in water while being imprisoned in freezing cold, airless refrigerators until they were displayed in all their dying glory on some table, to be admired as they perished. That hadn't stopped Morrigan from filling her house and office with the things – quite the opposite. What most people didn't know was that Morrigan had enjoyed arranging the displays with her own hands. It was one of her few hobbies, to create works of floral art in the Japanese ikebana style. When people frustrated her, Morrigan had resorted to torturing flowers and bending them to her implacable will.

She wouldn't push her frustrations on flowers like her mother had, bottling it all up until her heart perished from the stress. No, Gaia intended to do business differently, by bending people to her will. She might be her mother's daughter, but she was not her mother, as the departing mourners would soon learn.

In her distraction, she found herself alone by her mother's graveside. No, not quite alone – one man stood on the other side of the coffin, his face obscured by his low-held umbrella. For a moment, Gaia's heart leaped as she wondered if it was her father, but the man folded his umbrella under his arm and she recognised her mother's managing director, James Stewart. The only man her mother had ever listened to, or so she said. Gaia thought she'd only listened to him long enough to formulate an argument to do the complete opposite of whatever he'd advised.

Did he intend to antagonise her here, of all places? At her mother's damn funeral?

Stewart met her glare with irritating calm. He strode around the hole that held her mother's boxed body and offered Gaia his hand. "Miss Vasse, my condolences for your loss."

She accepted the handshake out of politeness, more than anything else. Stewart was older than her mother. Older than she had been when she died, Gaia reminded herself. It would take her a long time to get used to the fact that she was gone.

He coughed. "May I ask when you'll feel ready to take up the reins of Vasse Prospecting?" When she didn't immediately reply, he continued, "Of course, I understand that your mother's death was quite a shock to you, as it was to us all, so I wouldn't want to intrude on your grief. If you'll tell me when you plan on coming into the office, I can arrange – "

"Tomorrow," Gaia interrupted. "You'll get your new chairman tomorrow." She hid her smile at the shock on his face.

Stewart closed his mouth, then cleared his throat again. "If you're sure you're ready, Miss Vasse. There's the urgent matter of Lorikeet Island and we need a decision – "

"Tomorrow, Stewart. It can wait until tomorrow." Now she let her face twist into a grim smile. "I buried my mother today. She's not even cold in her grave. A bit of respect, please."

"Of course." He still looked like he wanted to argue.

Before he could decide that Lorikeet Island needed her attention more than common courtesy would allow, Gaia set off toward her car. She had a wake to attend, wearing a false smile as she accepted the condolences of all the mourners who'd been at the cemetery and now expected a free feed.

Freeloaders at funerals. If she had any say in it, there'd be none at hers. If people wanted to eat and drink themselves stupid when she died, they could pay for it out of their own pockets. She ground the accelerator under her custom-made black shoe, and her car left a satisfying spray of gravel in its wake.

TWO

Gaia eyed the graduation photo on her mother's – now her – desk. Her in the black gown and cap all MBA graduates wore; Mother in the gown and floppy hat of her latest in a string of honorary doctorates. If she needed a family photo in here to make her look more like her staff, then it wasn't a bad choice. It was a reminder of whose daughter she was; as well as evidence that she was qualified by more than money to sit in the chairman's seat. Vasse Prospecting was her domain now.

"Miss Vasse? Have you had a chance to look over the latest report about Lorikeet Island? I left it on your desk last night." Stewart strode smoothly into the office, as if he owned the place. Not even a knock.

Gaia's gaze settled on him. "No. I'll call you when I'm ready to discuss it."

"Miss Vasse, if you'll allow me to brief you, we can – "

"No, I won't, and no, we can't." She took a deep breath, then blew it out her nose. She wished she could breathe flame to show the arrogant managing director her fury. "This is my company, Stewart. I'll act when I'm ready."

He backed up. "You should know that the seawall, which was weakened in the last cyclone, broke two days ago. While you were waiting to act. Now, Lorikeet Island mine is completely flooded. You have no choice but to close it down." Gaia caught a glimpse of his triumphant smile before he turned and marched out of her office.

Insufferable man. He'd been in charge when the mine flooded, which made it his fault, not hers. It couldn't be as bad as he said.

But that didn't make it any less her problem now. An incompetent managing director meant more work for her.

Sighing, she sent her assistant to get her some tea while she opened the file on Lorikeet Island.

THREE

The thick file took her most of the morning. She'd toyed with the idea of calling in Stewart and making him stand before her desk like a schoolboy delivering a book report while he briefed her, but she needed to understand Lorikeet Island for herself. She knew its history, after all. Who didn't?

Other investors had made their fortune in mining Western Australia's wealth. All the rest of them had focussed on the mainland. But Stanley Vasse, fresh out of the army from his service in World War II, had other ideas. He'd been stationed at secret bases in Western Australia's remote north, only accessible by boat and plane, and he'd seen enough of the islands to know the wealth they held. Not gold, but red gold – iron ore, which gave the pindan dust up there its bloody hue. And the world needed iron, what with all that would need to be rebuilt once the war was over.

So when the war ended, he fought for his islands. It took six long years of sampling and testing and mapping before he staked his claim on Lorikeet Island, one of the highest quality reefs of iron ore in the world. As he demonstrated when his mine crews started to dig. They mined the cliffs, and when those were gone, he brought in geologists and oceanographers to map the sea bed, before he reclaimed that, too. And the red mud ran like blood, dripping dollars into the Vasse family coffers until her grandfather could afford other islands and other mines, diamonds and coal and uranium, if the government would ever get their arses into gear and let them dig up the damn radioactive stuff. Vasse Prospecting had owned the mining leases on an untouched deposit of uranium for more than sixty years, but hadn't been allowed to raise a single tonne of yellowcake. That would soon change, though. Under Gaia's management, Vasse Uranium had secured the necessary approvals to start mining. By this time next year, her flagship project would be turning a profit. She'd succeeded where her mother and her grandfather had failed. Vasse luck was on the rise once more with her at the helm, and there was nothing she wouldn't do to ensure it continued.

Mother had once told her that she'd sell everything else she owned – mines, properties, all their other investments – but as long as they owned Lorikeet Island, their fortunes were assured. The seabed around the island held enough iron ore to keep the mine open for another century at least. More if it extended to the other nearby islands.

So there was no way she'd ever approve Stewart's planned shutdown of Lorikeet Island mine. No matter how many pictures he'd included in his report, showing the lagoon where the seawall had until recently kept out the ocean, it wasn't enough to make her change her mind. They would rebuild, as they always had, and the mine would reopen as soon as possible.

A tentative knock at the door.

Gaia raised her head, but Harrison, her mother's assistant, kept his eyes lowered. "Your tea, Miss Vasse."

"Is it Earl Grey this time?" she demanded.

He reddened. "Yes, ma'am." He set the offering on her desk and whisked away the cold cup from her previous one. She'd lost count of how much she'd drunk this morning, and the morning wasn't over yet. "The morning papers have arrived. Shall I bring them to you?"

Gaia nodded absently, not sparing more than a glance for the man. Boy, really. For as long as she could remember, her mother had hired assistants like him. Boys who wouldn't meet her eyes and jumped to do her mother's bidding, because if they didn't, they'd be out on their ear and Mother would have a new boy in his place. Maybe Gaia would replace the endless parade of boys with a woman next time. At least she wouldn't be embarrassed when the woman picked up her dry cleaning. Harrison, though...the few times he'd looked at her, when her mother was still alive, there'd been something in his eye that made her wonder if he was thinking...inappropriate thoughts. Or was that Bradley, the previous one? She couldn't keep track of them all. They all looked so alike. And it's not like she'd ever be interested in a man of their type, anyway.

Flicking open the newspaper, Gaia grinned as she beheld the headline photo. Now there was a man who was definitely any woman's type. Why had rock star Jay Felix made the news this time? Hadn't his band broken up? Not that she cared about the rest of his band. Just the ripple of muscles on his shirtless torso, that tempting V between his hips that vanished into the waistband of his pants...

Gaia shook herself. It had been too long since her last holiday. She needed to relieve a little tension, if a blurry newspaper photo of a man could get her hot under the collar. A holiday somewhere private, where she could have a little liaison with no strings attached, and no rumours to follow her home. Not this week, though.

Her eyes returned to the headline article that accompanied the picture, announcing that Jay Felix would be sponsoring some major travel convention in the city next month, and he was offering a stay at his favourite private resort as a door prize. A private resort? That might suit her, Gaia mused, scanning the article for details of the resort's location.

The prize included flights to Broome and transfers to Romance Island Resort in the Buccaneer Archipelago. No, that couldn't be right...could it? Lorikeet Island was in the Buccaneer Archipelago. It was too big a coincidence. It couldn't be the same island group.

She searched for the resort on her computer, only to discover that Romance Island was only a few kilometres from Lorikeet Island. A short boat trip, or helicopter flight. Perhaps it might be possible to combine business with pleasure. If only the rock star would be in residence when she arrived...

Gaia picked up her phone and dialled Harrison's extension.

"Yes, ma'm?" he answered.

Ma'am. Now she felt old. She wasn't even thirty yet.

"Arrange travel for me to Romance Island Resort next week. I want a whole week there, with a helicopter at my disposal. Their best accommodation. With privacy. No, make it two weeks."

"Yes, ma'am," he repeated.

Gaia gritted her teeth. "And you will call me Miss Vasse. Not ma'am."

"Yes, ma – uh, Miss Vasse."

She hung up without another word. It was definitely time to negotiate a merger between business and pleasure.

FOUR

Stewart's drawl made Gaia drowsy: "And once we have those in place, we can commence the shutdown. Decommissioning of the mine is estimated to take – "

"Who said anything about shutting down or decommissioning Lorikeet Island mine? We've barely scratched the surface of the ore deposit there!" Gaia glared.

"Your late mother understood that it was only a matter of time before the safety risks inherent in that seawall would require a shutdown. The environmental approvals alone would make building a new one impossible, or so expensive that it may as well be impossible. Particularly with the falling price of iron ore and the current state of the Chinese market," Stewart continued smoothly. His smile seemed particularly slimy as he added, "Your mother was fully prepared to cut her losses and close Lorikeet Island."

Not before hell froze over. Lorikeet Island was the basis for her family's luck. No one would shut it down until every speck of useful ore was gone.

"What losses?" Gaia demanded.

Stewart paled. Oh, it was only slight, but Gaia knew him well enough to recognise when she had the man discomfited. Good.

"The infrastructure losses, of course, and the high cost of replacing them. Your mother – "

Gaia had heard enough. "My mother would never shut down a profitable mine. Especially not that one. And I'm her daughter, so neither will I. What about insurance? We pay enough for it. That should cover the costs of replacing the damaged buildings, as well as the mine itself. Our usual clients will need to know about the delays, and when they can expect normal production to resume. When do you estimate we can send out the next shipment of Lorikeet ore?"

Stewart stared. "Miss Vasse, I don't think you understand. The mine is under water. There's nowhere for the staff to stay. There will never be another shipment of ore from Lorikeet Island."

She stiffened. "I don't think you understand, Stewart. Vasse Prospecting and every mine it owns belongs to me. That means every important decision also comes down to me. Maybe you used to bully my mother into bad decisions, but that won't work with me. I am not my mother, and I'm not my grandfather, either. What was impossible for them is a morning's work for me. If I say the mine stays open, then it stays open."

"Good luck with that," he sneered. "Without accommodation, you won't have any staff. Lorikeet Island is one of the most remote mines in the world. Have you ever been there? Fourteen metre tides, cyclones that flatten everything in their path, and the only way in or out of there is by plane, and the storm damaged the air strip. You can't fly people in from town every day. The only reason Lorikeet Island stayed open as long as it has is because of the old resort accommodation your mother bought out back in the eighties. And what's left of that is under a couple metres of mud. So unless you have another hotel approved and ready to go on that island, it'll be a decade before you dig up anything else there. Just because you're a Vasse, doesn't mean you understand this business, little girl. Your mother was twice the businesswoman you'll ever be, and she couldn't hold a candle to her father. Why don't you go for another one of your little secret holidays that you think no one knows about? Drink cocktails and cavort with cabana boys like you usually do, while you leave running a billion-dollar business to those of us who know what we're doing."

Harrison. The spineless twerp was a spy for Stewart. His days were numbered.

"Maybe I will," Gaia spat, deciding not to tell Stewart about the real motives behind her planned trip north. "And when I get back, we'll discuss the future of Lorikeet Island. And your future with my company."

Stewart snorted, then left without another word.

Arrogant ass, she thought, fixing her gaze on the photograph of her and Mother. How did Mother put up with him so long? Mother had been one of the world's richest women, if not the richest, and all that now belonged to her. Mother hadn't made all that money by being an idiot. But if she'd been bullied by Stewart all this time...

Gaia shook her head. She wasn't her mother. No man would ever get the best of her.

She'd go to the Buccaneer Archipelago and see Lorikeet Island for herself, then regroup at the resort as she worked out how best to proceed with rebuilding her family's flagship mine. All she needed was somewhere for her staff to stay...

What had Stewart said about a resort? Another hotel approved and ready to go, as though he thought that was impossible. Perhaps it was, but what about one that was already built? Romance Island Resort, for instance.

Let Stewart think she was messing around with cabana boys. Instead, she'd stage the coup of the century and acquire the resort. Who would say no to the richest woman in the world?

No one, that's who.

FIVE

"What did you say your name was again?" a vague-sounding female voice asked.

"Gaia Vasse," she snapped, almost spitting the words into her telephone. What kind of idiot hadn't heard of her?

"Can you spell that, please?"

Gritting her teeth, Gaia did as requested, before the useless girl's reply was drowned out by another woman's shouting.

"You're not going because you announced on national television that we've opened the resort to terrorists. I've had ASIO sniffing around all week, wanting to see our guest lists, while our IT guys report almost daily hacker attacks. It's unheard of. What possessed you to say something so stupid?"

She sounded English, though her accent wasn't the refined sort Gaia preferred. No, this woman was as common as they came. One of the hotel staff, then. Definitely not a guest.

An Aussie male voice piped up, more annoyed than angry. "I said we welcomed guests of all nationalities and religions. Anyone who found it too cold in Russia or too hot in Syria would find Romance Island Resort a perfect sanctuary where their privacy is our priority. Tell me what about that makes it sound like I'm inviting terrorists to stay here!"

"That's exactly what I'm talking about. Every word makes it sound that way, and you don't get it! That's why I'll manage the media for the resort from now on. I don't have time to go to Perth, but now some ASIO Agent Dunn calls me every day until I fly down so he can interrogate me. No way are you going anywhere near that convention. You'll only make matters worse. Leave the business side of things for those of us who know what we're doing. Why don't you just go back to banging every fangirl you can find and let me do my job?"

"Flavia isn't a fangirl." The man's voice was reproachful.

"Fine, go back to banging whoever, then. Some of us have to work."

"Oh, Ms Lane?" the girl on the other end of the phone simpered.

"It's Vasse, not Lane," Gaia snapped.

The girl ignored her. "Ms Lane, I have Guy Vast on the phone for you."

"Who?" A sigh. "I'll take it in my office. Thanks, Philly."

The idiot receptionist was named for a horse? It figured. She wouldn't last more than five minutes in Vasse Prospecting. If the three people Gaia had just heard were an example of the incompetence of the staff at the resort, it would be hers within the week. Gaia smiled.

"Putting you through now," the girl announced, and her irritating voice was replaced with ringing.

"Hello, this is Xan Lane," the bored Englishwoman answered.

"I asked to be put through to the hotel manager," Gaia replied icily.

"That's me," the woman said easily. "I thought this was about a Mr Vast. Are you his assistant? Our receptionist should be able to handle all your booking requests."

"I'm no one's assistant," Gaia snapped. "My name is Gaia Vasse, and I'm interested in buying your hotel."

Silence, broken by a smooth, "What a lovely surprise, Miss Vasse. My condolences on the loss of your mother."

At least she recognised the name, and knew who she was. That was a start.

Xan continued, "But I'm afraid the resort is no longer for sale. The new owner took possession in January."

As if Gaia only bought properties listed on the open market. "Five months is hardly enough time to get attached to the place. Or for you to get accustomed to the change in management. I assure you, this is the best offer you'll ever get for the place. Especially with the proposed mine extension on your doorstep."

More silence. "You're planning on expanding the mine at Lorikeet Island? I'd understood from Mr Stewart last week that the shutdown team would be here as soon as the dry season starts. He made sure to assure me that the increased shipping traffic wouldn't impact on the resort or disturb our guests. This is a very exclusive resort, Miss Vasse, as I'm sure you'd appreciate. The sort of place people like yourself choose for their holidays."

For all her common accent, the hotel manager wasn't too bad at talking business. Not in Gaia's league, though. "So I understand. Which is why I'll be flying up to inspect it for myself. We should meet in person to discuss the proposed sale of the resort."

Xan coughed. "You really should discuss this with the owner, not me, Miss Vasse. He has his own plans for the place. I just manage it, and I'll continue to do that, regardless of who owns the resort."

A possible future employee. One who knew what she was doing. Gaia restrained herself from rubbing her hands in glee. "Oh, I think we should keep it between us businesswomen. When we've worked out all the details, then you can bring my proposal to the owner as a done deal. No need to bother him just yet."

"If you say so, Miss Vasse. I'll get Philly to arrange the meeting. I look forward to it."

As she ended the call, satisfaction bloomed in Gaia's chest. She'd give the woman increased shipping traffic. A mine shutdown was nothing compared to an expansion. By the time she was done explaining the changes to the hotel manager, the woman would hand her the resort at a bargain price, because no guest would want to stay in a mining port. She could move her staff in next month.

SIX

On the screen, a bride glided down the church aisle on what Gaia presumed was her father's arm. All eyes, phones and flashing cameras turned toward the veiled image of virginity. A collective sigh sounded as the older man lifted the veil and kissed his daughter's cheek. Bridesmaids scuttled around her, settling her veil beneath her pinned curls. The groom's triumphant leer told the world that he didn't care for the veil or the dress, but the naked girl beneath them, who he intended to do all sorts of things to as soon as possible.

The girl ducked her head in response, as if to hide her blush. She turned slightly to scan the congregation, a lost look on her face as if she'd suddenly realised she might not like losing her virginity.

The priest clicked on his microphone and cleared his throat.

The bride stiffened, as if she'd suddenly grown a spine, and she snatched the microphone out of the man's hands. "I don't want to do this," she said in a breathy voice.

Laughter erupted from the congregation.

"But thanks to this arsehole, I have to," she continued.

All laughter died.

"He wanted us to save ourselves for marriage. He swore if I would, he'd do the same. Did you, James?" She turned to the groom.

"Of course, Vee," he drawled.

"Lying through your teeth in a church, you lying sack of shit. Just like you said you'd call off the wedding when I told you I knew you'd slept with a prostitute a few weeks ago. You can stick this wedding up your arse, James, just like you did to her." The bride drew her bouquet over her shoulder, then let it fly. The ball of roses hit the ceiling in an explosion of white petals, before landing among the congregation. A scuffle broke out, but the noise was muffled by the bride with the microphone as she added, "Fire it up, Vi. Show them what he did."

A projector screen behind the altar burst into a blur of colour, which resolved into a sordid scene between a couple who looked like they were having sex on a table.

"But I did it for you, Vee. She was showing me how to give you a good time!" the groom wailed.

"You aren't worth my time." The bride kneed him in the groin, then stormed out of the church.

Harrison laughed so hard he had to wipe his eyes. That's when he noticed Gaia standing behind him. "Have you seen this?" he asked her. "It's the funniest thing I've ever seen. The video of him having sex went viral a few weeks ago, and it's like the next chapter. It's been up for a couple of days and already it's had over two million views."

Gaia didn't crack a smile. "I can see why. You've already watched it four times. On company time."

Harrison's face fell. "Nah, I'm on my lunch break."

"It doesn't matter. Company policy on using office computers for pornographic material says it's instant dismissal," Gaia said steadily. "Goodbye, Harrison."

Harrison waved at the screen. "But...that's not pornography! It's a wedding! Everyone was still dressed!"

"The sex tape on the screen looked pretty pornographic to me. We can take it up with HR, if you like, and leave the definition up to them, or you can just resign." She kept her eyes on him. She wouldn't blink first.

Harrison hung his head. "I guess I could find another job in the next two weeks while I finish up here."

"I said instant dismissal. Pack your things and get out."

"But – " Harrison reconsidered and closed his mouth. He tucked his wallet and phone into his pockets, grabbed his coffee mug and slouched out.