‘Don’t worry. I will take care of you, Ivy. In every sense there is.’
That was a big promise. Ivy wasn’t sure she believed it. But she was willing to take this journey with him. It was probably an Alice in Wonderland kind of adventure and one day she would wake up from it. She hoped she would be able to treasure the good, shake off the bad and remember it as a risk that had been worth taking.
AT the first red traffic light Jordan whipped out his mobile phone, making a quick call to his handyman who promptly answered.
‘No need to come, Ray. I’m heading home now in Ivy’s car. Would you please tell Margaret it will be dinner for two tonight. Maybe a late lunch, as well.’
‘Will do. And…uh…congratulations, boss.’
‘Thanks, Ray,’ Jordan said dryly, aware that his campaign to make contact with Ivy was well known to his household staff, with conflicting degrees of support. Ray had been rooting for him to win while Margaret reserved judgement on the outcome.
He closed the phone and slid it back into his shirt pocket, throwing a glance at Ivy to check all was well with her before turning his attention back to the bank-up of traffic waiting for the light to change. ‘Why are you frowning?’ he asked, wanting to wipe the tense expression from her face.
She heaved a sigh and shot him an anxious look. ‘Your housekeeper…I guess she’s seen a lot of women come and go in your life, Jordan. It’s just kind of embarrassing. I know I shouldn’t care what she thinks, but…’
‘Don’t worry.’ He grinned as he reached across and gave her hand a quick reassuring squeeze. ‘Margaret likes you. In fact, I have a strong suspicion I’ll be damned to perdition if I don’t treat you right.’
‘How could she like me?’ Ivy queried in amazement. ‘I only spoke to her for a few minutes. And that was when…well, it was obvious I’d spent the night with you.’
‘Oh, I got the blame for that…having my wicked way with a nice girl.’
‘How does she know I’m a nice girl?’
‘According to Margaret, you have beautiful manners. Believe me, as long as you treat her with respect, you’ll get the same respect back. Respect and honesty are Margaret’s prime standards. Cross those lines and you’re in her black books. An honest bit of sex between a man and a woman does not worry her one bit. Okay?’
Ivy relaxed, a happy relief in her smile. ‘Okay. She sounds like quite a character.’
‘She is. Hiring her was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.’
And Jordan had the strong feeling that pursuing Ivy had been one of his best decisions, too.
The car behind them honked—a warning that the light had turned green and the traffic was moving again. Satisfied that he’d removed any fretting from Ivy’s mind, Jordan drove on, revelling in the anticipation of having her to himself for the rest of the weekend, which gave him plenty of time to sort out any other concerns she might have about being involved with him.
It was highly vexing to find his sister’s silver Porsche parked in the driveway of his Balmoral home. Apart from the fact that he didn’t want any visitors taking his attention away from Ivy, Olivia was a self-centred snob whose manner could be very off-putting to anyone who wasn’t used to her. Besides, she wouldn’t be here unless she wanted him to fix something for her, which meant she’d want his undivided attention.
‘Damn!’ he muttered as he brought Ivy’s car to a halt behind the Porsche.
‘You have a visitor?’ Ivy enquired, a wary look on her face.
‘My sister, who only drops in on me when she has some problem to unload, so I won’t be able to get rid of her until I hear her out.’
‘If it’s a private problem, Jordan, she won’t want a stranger listening in.’
‘No, she won’t.’ He grimaced an apologetic appeal. ‘Would you mind very much chatting to Margaret while I deal with it? I’ll ask her to make you some lunch. Or you could browse through the newspaper. I’m sorry. This is an awkward start, not what I…’
‘It’s okay,’ she quickly assured him. ‘Family should come first, especially if there’s a problem.’
He heaved a sigh of frustration. ‘Olivia makes trouble for herself. My father spoiled her terribly…his little princess. Don’t be upset if she’s dismissive of you. It won’t be personal. She’ll just be so full of herself, no one else counts.’
The green eyes filled with wry self-mockery. ‘Well, I don’t count for anything in her life.’
‘You do in mine,’ he said emphatically, feeling the question mark over his involvement with her and hating it. He turned in his seat to reach out and cup her cheek, his eyes boring into hers with forceful intensity. ‘You do in mine, Ivy. Give me time and I’ll prove that to you.’
He kissed her, wanting their desire for each other to obliterate everything else, leave no room for doubts. Excitement surged through him at her fierce response. She didn’t want to doubt him. She wanted to lose herself in the same passion he felt. It was hell having to restrain himself to a kiss when he was so hungry for her. He men tally cursed his sister for being an obstacle to the ram pant urge to sweep Ivy straight up to his bedroom. A month of waiting and still he had to wait.
‘Later,’ he promised, breathing the word against her lips as he forced himself to break the kiss. ‘You have to meet my sister now, Ivy.’
‘Yes,’ she whispered huskily.
He had to fight down his reluctance to separate himself from her, move away. It took an act of will to curb the rebellious needs of his body and alight from the car, taking the steps demanded by Olivia’s unwelcome presence in his home. Ivy swayed a little as he helped her from the passenger seat. He tucked her arm around his for the walk inside, governed by the strong instinct to support and protect his woman.
Strange…he couldn’t remember feeling actually possessive of a woman before. Probably it was the long waiting that had made him uncertain of having Ivy again. And that was yet to happen. Olivia had better behave herself, he thought grimly. If she gave Ivy any cause to skip out on him…
‘There you are!’
The words were flung at him the moment he and Ivy entered the foyer—Olivia emerging from the lounge, a highball glass in hand, obviously in a state of intoxication, her usual perfect grooming having taken a slide today: eye make-up smudged, her shoulder-length hair dishevelled, silk blouse crumpled, linen trousers badly creased.