‘Do it out of respect for my judgement.’
She stared at him, will clashing against will. Jordan poured every atom of forceful energy into his stare back. ‘I’ve never let you down, Mum,’ he said quietly. ‘Anything you’ve asked of me…’
‘All right,’ she snapped. ‘I’ll do it. I just hope she lives up to your judgement, Jordan.’
The groundwork was laid.
All that remained was for Ivy to come to the party.
THE story of Jordan Powell’s engagement to a rose farmer was front-page news in Saturday’s newspapers. Jordan had warned Ivy he’d been asked for a press release, and she was safely installed at his Balmoral home before details of their romance were publicly released, escaping from the attention of the paparazzi, who subsequently swarmed to the farm to photograph everything in sight, and a bunch of reporters wanting more personal stories about her.
Heather and Graham held the fort, declaring she was a wonderful employer, there was no dirt to dig up and everything in the garden was rosy. Sacha was also approached for comment, to which she had no comment apart from saying her beautiful daughter deserved a beautiful man and she confidently expected them both to have a beautiful marriage.
After the umpteenth call telling her what was happening, Ivy rolled her eyes at Jordan and wailed, ‘Please tell me this is a one-day wonder.’
He laughed and drew her into a reassuring embrace. ‘It’s a one-day wonder. Truly. Just the surprise element sparking it off. There’s nothing to get their teeth into. And we’ll be in Europe next week. Nothing to follow up with.’
She sighed and nestled closer. ‘That’s a relief.’
‘There will be a society columnist and photographer at the party tonight, but I’ll be right at your side and they won’t cause you any unpleasantness. They’re my mother’s pet media people. Okay?’
She looked him in the eye and solemnly promised, ‘I’ll do my best to get used to being publicly connected to you, Jordan. I’ll learn how to handle it.’
‘Don’t worry about it, Ivy. The trick is not to let it really touch you. We live our lives regardless of what people print or say.’
She smiled as she reached up and touched his face. ‘I’ll have to grow some armour like you.’
The Ned Kelly paintings in Jordan’s bedroom reflected her comment as Ivy dressed for the party. She’d chosen to wear black, like the armour of the famous bushranger. Black was safe. No one was going to criticise an elegant black dress, and it was elegant. The bodice fell from a beaded yoke to a beaded waistband, leaving her shoulders and arms bare. The crepe fabric was cut on the bias for the long skirt so it clung to her hips, then dropped in graceful folds to her feet. She did not have to wear killer shoes with it, which was also safe. And pain-free. It was important to her to feel comfortable tonight. In every sense.
The style of the dress didn’t need a necklace. The long jet earrings she’d bought for the sequinned outfit looked right with it. The diamond and emerald earrings Jordan had wanted to buy her would have looked spectacular, but to her mind, they would have distracted people—perhaps unkindly—from the ring, which was spectacular enough on its own.
A last check of her appearance assured Ivy she was suitably armoured for the role of Jordan Powell’s fiancée. Black was the best foil for her pale skin and the riot of wavy red hair fluffed out around her bare shoulders. In fact, she couldn’t remember ever looking better than she did right now.
Having fastened a small black beaded evening bag containing repair make-up around her wrist, she headed downstairs to parade for Margaret who wanted to see her in her finery. Jordan’s housekeeper had seen him in a formal black dinner suit many times, but Ivy had always worn casual clothes at Balmoral. Tonight was different in so many ways, Ivy’s heart started skittering nervously as she saw both Margaret and Jordan waiting for her at the foot of the staircase.
They both looked up. Ivy held her shoulders straight and descended with as much aplomb as she could muster, determined to look as though she was born to be at Jordan’s side. Margaret clapped her hands at the performance, grinning from ear to ear in delight.
‘Will I do?’ Ivy asked, wanting to hear their approval in words.
‘You’ll do perfectly!’ Margaret answered emphatically.
‘Perfectly!’ Jordan echoed, the blaze of desire in his eyes flooding her with warmth.
She wanted him, too. Which was what all this was about…wanting each other for the rest of their lives. It was easy to keep that in the forefront of her mind as they travelled to Palm Beach. Ray drove them in the Bentley, and sitting beside Jordan in the back seat, his fingers tightly interlaced with hers reinforcing the strong sexual connection between them, Ivy began to feel confident that nothing would separate them.
She had never been to his mother’s home. Jordan’s house was big and impressive but nowhere near on the same scale as the Mediterranean-style mansion at Palm Beach, with its three storeys of columns and balconies. It screamed opulent wealth, making Ivy super-conscious of stepping into a different world. But she had Jordan as her guide. And partner. She didn’t have to be dreadfully nervous about it.
Security guards flanked the entrance gateway, ensuring that only invited guests passed by them. Jordan had planned to be the last to arrive, preferring an informal meet-and-greet as they moved around the party, which was now obviously in full swing. As they alighted from the Bentley, dance music and a distant babble of voices could be heard. Ivy hoped her friends were enjoying them selves.
A butler met them at the front door. They stepped into a grand foyer where a magnificent display of her red roses stood on a marble pedestal. It put a smile on Ivy’s face, her eyes twinkling at Jordan, who she knew had organised that, too. The butler ushered them in to an incredibly fabulous ballroom: massive crystal chandeliers, mirrored walls, gorgeous sofas, chairs and ornamental tables ringing the dance floor, and doors opening out to a balcony at the end of it.
A live band was playing from a dais in one of the far corners. Most of the younger guests were kicking up their heels on the dance floor. Ivy spotted Heather and Graham amongst them. The rest of the crowd were sitting or standing around chatting, helping themselves to whatever was being offered on the trays of food and drinks being circulated by an army of waiters.
Nonie Powell rose from a chaise longue and came for ward to greet them, her royal-blue satin evening dress adding to her queenly air. Sacha detached herself from a group of people, trailing eagerly after her, very much the colourful butterfly in a bright orange silk pantsuit with a long split jacket in shades of violet, blue and turquoise and printed with orange and red flowers. She wasn’t actually wearing bells but lots of gold necklaces and bangles were jingling.