‘Anyhow, we walked into the Liz Davenport boutique and there was Ivy, trying on a pantsuit I know was priced at over seven hundred dollars.’
‘So?’ he snapped.
‘Well, naturally I thought you’d given her the money to make herself look fashionable enough to fit into our crowd. I did the same thing with Ashton.’
‘Ivy is nothing like Ashton,’ he grated out, furious with Olivia’s assumption.
‘How was I supposed to know that? You’ve kept her to yourself all this time. Mum told me she worked on a farm and that fitted what I saw of her with you.’
‘Ivy owns a very profitable rose farm. It’s a solid business. I’ve checked it out,’ he almost shouted in his chagrin. ‘She can afford to buy whatever clothes she likes.’
‘Well, it’s your fault for keeping so mum about her,’ came the typical defence. Everything was always someone’s else’s fault in his sister’s life.
He sliced straight to the vital point. ‘What did you do, Olivia?’
She huffed. ‘I’ve had to ask you to rescue me. I liked the idea of saving you for once.’
‘Saving me from what?’
‘A fortune-hunter! Except…I don’t think she is one. What she said back to me…the way she looked…it didn’t fit at all. And the more I thought about it, the more I felt I should ’fess up to you about making a mistake, be cause I think she means to walk out of your life and you might not want her to.’
‘You’re quite right. I don’t,’ he said grimly, knowing he could very well lose Ivy because of Olivia’s interference.
‘At least give me credit for telling you, Jordan. I’m sure you can fix it up now that you know.’
Removing all guilt from herself.
Jordan unclenched his jaw enough to say, ‘Thank you, Olivia. You might also call Caroline Sheldon and correct the false impression you gave her of Ivy who happens to be the most genuine and delightful person I’ve ever met.’
It was the truth. Not once had she ever given him reason to doubt the character she had shown him throughout the whole time they had spent together.
‘Then why haven’t you introduced her around?’ came the swift retort, loaded with self-justification.
‘Because I’m still in the process of winning her over to wanting to be in my life.’
‘Why wouldn’t she want to?’
Unimaginable to Olivia.
‘Because she doesn’t feel she belongs with people like you,’ he answered harshly, unable to contain his anger. ‘And you know what, Olivia? She doesn’t!’
He pressed the disconnect button and stood still for several moments, needing to calm himself and assess the situation. His heart was thumping like a battle-drum. What the hell could he do to counter what Olivia had done! Some things couldn’t be fixed. Ivy would be all the more convinced now that she wouldn’t fit into his world. That conviction had taken her away from him once. He had to fight it again to keep her.
Ivy had brought more joy into his life than any other woman. It was always a pleasure to be with her, in bed and out of it. He’d had more fun at her friends’ parties—relatively uncomplicated people, satisfied with their lives in the country—than he did at the parties revolving around who’s who with the socialite A-list. He knew where she was coming from, knew what she would go back to and, although he understood why, somehow he had to stop it because he was not prepared to accept the hole she would leave in his life.
He quickly tapped in her mobile number, needing communication.
She’d turned it off.
Was she on her way home?
No, he decided. Ivy would not skip out on him as she had before. There’d been too much between them to go without a word. She’d promised to be fair, which surely meant facing him with whatever Olivia had said. Therefore, she would be at Balmoral later this afternoon, as arranged. He would have the chance then to employ every hold he could think of to sway her into staying with him. Whatever it took, he was not going to lose her.
Feeling more confident he could do it, one way or another, Jordan switched his mind to the business meeting, determined to get through it as fast as possible. Two frustrating hours later he was out of it, trying to call Ivy again. No answer. He called Margaret, needing to know if Ivy had arrived.
‘Yes. About twenty minutes ago. But…’ She left the word hanging, as though in two minds whether to express the thought.
‘But what?’ Jordan pressed, wanting every bit of information he could get about the situation. Forewarned, forearmed.
‘Not that it’s any of my business…’
‘Make it your business, Margaret.’
‘Well, she’s not herself. You know how much I like Ivy and we always have a nice chat. She’s never been uppity or off-putting like some I could mention. I actually look forward to her visits because she’s so nice and natural and funny, and I’m quite sure she enjoys my company, too. But not today. I think something’s upset her. Badly. She declined a cup of coffee and said she’d wait for you out in the pagoda.’
Not in his house. Withdrawing…
‘She didn’t bring in an overnight bag, either,’ Margaret went on worriedly. ‘I checked.’
No intention to stay.
‘And if she’d been happily shopping, which you told me was the plan, I’m sure she would have been all bubbly about what she’d bought. So, since you’ve asked my opinion, I think something’s very wrong, Jordan, and I don’t like it.’
Neither did he.
‘Her phone is switched off. Would you please take your receiver down to the pagoda so I can speak to her?’
‘Okay. Doing it now.’
His whole body was tight with tension as he waited, his mind zapping through an array of opening lines, wanting what might be the most effective one.
‘Hello…’ Her voice was dull, no joy in it.
‘Ivy, Olivia called me,’ he rushed out. ‘She’s very sorry for what she said to you.’
Then flatly, ‘I’d rather not discuss it on the phone, Jordan. We’ll talk when you get home. Thank you, Margaret.’
But at least she was waiting for him.
Peak-hour traffic slowed his journey to a crawl. Jordan applied several relaxation techniques to keep tension at bay. Nothing worked. At one of the many red lights delaying his progress, he removed his suit coat and tie, flicked open the top buttons of his shirt and thought about how to get Ivy naked. Bodies spoke a better language than words. The sex between them was still fantastic. She couldn’t deny that.