She had the same blue eyes and black hair he did. Tall and voluptuously curved, she could and usually did make a striking impact on people, but she was not about to make a good impression on Ivy at this meeting. He closed the front door behind him, eyeing his sister with stern displeasure. Getting drunk didn’t fix anything, and driving a car while over the alcohol limit was downright irresponsible, let alone illegal. Not acknowledging Ivy’s presence and addressing him as though he’d put her out by his absence was more than he could tolerate.
‘Why are you here, Olivia?’ he threw back at her.
She ignored the question, eyeing Ivy up and down with a supercilious look on her face. ‘Who is this? Taking up with Cinderellas now, are you, Jordan? Been through the whole socialite pack?’
‘Keep a civil tongue or go,’ he said cuttingly. ‘I don’t have any patience for your rudeness today.’
‘Sorry. I just haven’t seen her before,’ she rolled out with a shrug. ‘Will I recognise the name?’
‘Ivy. Ivy Thornton. Unfortunately, I have no pleasure at all in introducing you, Olivia.’
‘Tough!’ She sneered. ‘I’m family and you can’t get rid of family. The good old tie of blood is always there. Whereas Ivy…no doubt she will turn into Poison Ivy in due course. They invariably do, don’t they?’
She was right, but due course hadn’t been run yet, and he wasn’t about to let Olivia spark off another bout of resistance from Ivy when he’d just brought her to the starting line. ‘You’ve been warned!’ he threw at his sister, stepping back to open front door. ‘I’ll call Ray to drive you home.’
‘Oh, for pity’s sake! Why take offence when you carry on about being honest and calling a spade a spade?’ She flicked another look down her nose at Ivy. ‘I have to concede you have the good sense not to marry any of them. I, on the other hand…’ The jeering spite suddenly crumpled into tears and the eyes she turned back to Jordan were wretched pools of despair. ‘…was fool enough to hitch myself to a sleazy, cheating scumbag who plans on blackmailing me for all I’m worth.’
‘Blackmail?’ This was serious business. Jordan frowned over it as he quietly closed the door again. ‘What does your husband have to blackmail you with, Olivia?’ Her third husband, who fell in the toy-boy range—twenty-three years old to her thirty-four—sweet, loveable Ashton whose gym-toned body promised sex on legs and had obviously delivered it beyond the marriage bed, which had always been predictable. But what had Olivia done to put herself in a blackmailing situation?
She shook her head, choking out words between sobs and shuddering intakes of breath. ‘You’ve got to help me, Jordan. You’ve got to. Daddy would have fixed it.’
Jordan gritted his teeth. His father had always freed his darling daughter from the consequences of her follies, which, of course, meant Olivia had never learnt any hard lessons from experience. His own upbringing had been designed to teach him the strong hand required to run a business empire, to anticipate the consequences of any decision and make careful provision for them before acting.
Although well aware of why Olivia was the way she was, he was sorely tempted to let her stew in her own juices this time, make her count the cost for once, but blackmail was a dirty criminal act, and he couldn’t allow anyone to stick his sister with it. Nevertheless, some lessons had to be hammered home right now.
‘Okay, you want something from me, Olivia. I want something from you,’ he said in a hard relentless tone, totally unsympathetic to her blubbering tears in the face of the insults she had flung at Ivy—a woman she didn’t know and didn’t care about knowing—putting his win at risk.
‘What?’ Olivia asked sulkily.
‘Firstly you will apologise to Ivy for your ignorant remarks about her. Take a deep breath now and do it with some grace, please, or you can take your trouble to the cemetery and tell it to Dad’s tombstone.’
Her jaw dropped in shock. She goggled at him and then at Ivy who hadn’t said a word, despite the nastiness that had been directed at her. God only knew what she was thinking! Probably that any connection with him was fast losing its desire-power!
‘Sorry,’ Olivia finally mumbled at Ivy in a woebegone fashion. ‘I’m just so upset. I wanted you to go so I could have Jordan to myself. I…I shouldn’t have said those things.’ She dashed the tears from her eyes with her hand, lifted her chin and looked belligerently at Jordan. ‘Is that enough?’
‘No, but it will do for the present. The next time you meet Ivy, you’d better take the trouble to make her acquaintance in a decent fashion. You could learn good manners from her for a start.’
‘All right! All right!’ She snapped, throwing up her free hand, then dropping it into a plea for him to stop browbeating her. ‘I’m sorry. Okay?’
‘None of this is okay, Olivia. Go back into the lounge and wait for me. Don’t drink another drop of alcohol. If you have a serious problem we need to talk about it seriously. Soberly. Without any more theatrics. I’ll take Ivy to Margaret, who I’m sure will make her feel more comfortable, and I’ll bring you some strong black coffee.’
She flounced off into the lounge, slamming the door behind her in protest at being treated to some discipline instead of oodles of indulgence. Jordan reined in the angry resentment stirred by the whole scene with Olivia and turned quickly to draw Ivy into his embrace, searching her eyes for reactions to it, anxious to erase any damage done.
‘I apologise for my sister’s behaviour. It’s beyond my control, Ivy. She just lashes out indiscriminately when she’s upset. Not that that’s any excuse…’
To his intense relief she gave him an ironic little smile. ‘I thought you did a fairly impressive job of taking control.’
He heaved a rueful sigh. ‘My parents spoiled Olivia rotten. All she had to do was throw a tantrum and she was given anything she wanted. It used to drive me around the bend. Still does. But she could be in real trouble with this blackmail business. I’ll have to deal with it.’
‘Of course you do,’ she said sympathetically, reaching up to smooth the frown from his brow. ‘What your sister said to me doesn’t matter, Jordan. I know I’m not a Cinderella and I’ve never been poisonous to anyone. It seems to me it’s your family wealth that’s the poison.’