‘I’m exhausted,’ his mother complained, the moment the butler had shown him into the lounge room where pre-dinner drinks had been served. ‘I’ve been on the telephone all day, letting people know, begging my favourite caterer to drop everything for me…’
‘Which, of course, he did,’ Jordan dryly remarked. No one refused Nonie Powell.
She set down her glass of sherry and threw up her hands in exasperation. ‘Why the hurry? She’s not pregnant, is she?’
‘No. I just don’t want Ivy in any doubt as to where she stands with me,’ he replied, his gaze moving to his sister who was nursing a large Scotch on the rocks. ‘Before you dull your sensibilities with alcohol, I’d like you to give me your support in doing that, Olivia.’
‘I deserve a drink,’ she retorted, her chin lifting belligerently. ‘I’ve been on the phone for you all day, too.’
‘Thank you. I hope it wasn’t too much of a hardship.’ He was quite sure she’d had a ball, getting the gossip-mill going as well as spreading the happy news. ‘What I want now is for you to write Ivy a letter, apologising for your behaviour towards her yesterday and expressing the hope you can be friends in the future. If it’s posted tomorrow for next-day delivery, she’ll receive it before the weekend and feel more comfortable about meeting you again on Saturday night.’
Olivia huffed, grimaced, then lifted eyes full of confusion. ‘I honestly thought she was getting into you, Jordan. How was I to know that you loved each other? You’ve never been serious about a woman. Certainly not since Biancha Barlow almost had you fooled.’
Ivy’s character was light years away from Biancha’s. ‘Ivy doesn’t want me for my money,’ he said with absolute certainty. ‘I’ve known that for quite a while. This morning I wanted to buy her some jewellery to match the engagement ring. She recoiled from it as though I’d offered her a snake. I think you’ve poisoned her mind against accepting any expensive gifts from me, Olivia, and I need you to put that right. I want her to be happy about what I can give her, not feel branded as a fortune-hunter.’
Olivia frowned. ‘What jewellery did she knock back?’
‘A necklace and earrings in emeralds and diamonds to match the ring.’
Her eyes almost popped. ‘Wow! That’s big!’
Jordan bored in. ‘I wanted her to have them, Olivia. If you hadn’t interfered…’
‘Yes, yes, I see your point. I made it nasty instead of nice.’ She set her drink down and rose to her feet with an air of decision. ‘I’ll go to the office and write the letter now. And Jordan…’ She gave him a crooked little smile. ‘I’m glad for you. I really am. At least one of us might have a happy marriage.’
He smiled back. ‘Thank you.’
It was the first time he’d actually felt a sympathetic bond with his sister. Maybe, if Olivia made the effort to be friends with Ivy, he and she could become closer in the future, set their usual antagonism aside and be warmer towards each other.
Strange how suddenly his whole life now seemed centred on Ivy. Marriage to her had not entered his mind until it had burst into it as the only way to stop her from leaving him. Yet it was beginning to feel more and more right, so much so he was determined to prevent any possible snag that might stop it from happening.
‘It’s only been three months since Sacha Thornton’s exhibition,’ his mother commented, viewing him with sceptical eyes. ‘You’re rushing into this, Jordan.’
He raised challenging eyebrows. ‘I was told it was only three weeks after you met Dad that he asked you to marry him.’
She waved a dismissive hand. ‘They were different times.’
He shook his head. ‘People have the same feelings now as they had then, Mum.’
That earned a hard look. ‘You’re sure she’s right for you?’
‘Yes.’ Doubts could come later, but Jordan was now bent on not entertaining them until they bit him.
‘Different backgrounds,’ his mother pointed out.
‘It will in the future.’
‘Not if we don’t let it.’
She sighed. ‘Well, I see you have your mind set on it, Jordan, but it is a different world now and women won’t put up with what they used to. Do you honestly think you’ll be faithful to her in a long-term relationship?’
He hadn’t put that question to himself yet he answered without the slightest hesitation. ‘Yes, I do. I’ve had lots of women in the past, Mum. I know I’ve got the best with Ivy. I won’t even be tempted to look elsewhere.’
She sighed again. ‘Yes, I guess you do know that.’ Her eyes had a wry look as she added, ‘Your father didn’t. I was a virgin when we married and I was never really comfortable with what he wanted in bed. In some ways it was a relief when his mistresses supplied it. I knew he would never leave me, but…it wasn’t the happiest of marriages, Jordan. I hope you have a better one with your Ivy.’
Jordan found himself deeply touched by this confession and sad that his mother had never known uninhibited joy in sex. ‘I’m sorry it was like that for you, Mum. And for Dad. Do you think it was right for you to stay together all those years?’
Nonie’s pride answered him. ‘I had a wonderful life with your father. I wouldn’t have given it up for anything. Besides, we had our family. And your father wouldn’t have given that up for anything.’
Family…no, he wouldn’t give that up, either, if he and Ivy had children. He had to make this marriage work, on every level. Sex was no problem. He was sure it never would be. If they could strike the right balance with the living part, if Ivy would ease up over fitting into his scene…
‘This party is important to me, Mum,’ he confided, appealing for her understanding, as well as her help. ‘I want Ivy to believe she can have a wonderful life with me. Please…will you ask your friends to be especially kind to her? Olivia did quite a lot of damage to her confidence. If you give her your approval…’
‘Jordan, I don’t know the girl. I’ve barely met her.’
‘I’m asking you to do it because it’s important to me. I can handle the rest but I need this from you. Use your power, your influence, to make it a great night for Ivy. I know you can do it.’
Reluctance flashed in her eyes. ‘You’re putting my judgement of character on the line. What if she lets you down later?’