No hesitation whatsoever in acknowledging their relationship, nor in directing attention to her. The couple looked, their eyes widening at what they obviously saw as a power pair waiting in the wings. Jordan Powell was a splendid ornament on Ivy’s arm.
‘But please speak to Henry about the painting,’ her mother went on. ‘He’s handling all the sales.’
She pressed their hands in a quick parting gesture and swept over to plant extravagant kisses on her daughter’s cheeks in between extravagant cries of approval.
‘Darling! How lovely you look! I’m so thrilled that you’re here for me! And with Jordan!’
She stepped back to eye him coquettishly. ‘I do hope this means you’ve come to buy more of my work.’
‘Ivy and I came to greet you first, Sacha,’ he answered, oozing his charm again. ‘We haven’t had a chance to see what’s on show yet.’
‘Well, if there’s anything that takes your eye…’
They chatted for a few minutes, Ivy wryly reflecting that Jordan Powell was more important to her mother than she was. The man with the money. And the connections. She understood that this was what tonight was about for Sacha Thornton, not catching up with a daughter who didn’t share the same interests anyway. At least she had succeeded in not being a drag on proceedings. The next telephone call from her mother should be quite pleasant.
‘Ivy, dear, make sure Jordan sees everything,’ her mother pleaded prettily when he was about to draw away.
‘I’ll do my best,’ she answered obligingly. ‘Good luck with the show, Sacha.’
‘Sacha?’ Jordan queried, eyeing her curiously as he steered her into the adjoining room which wasn’t so crowded with people. ‘You don’t call her Mum?’
‘No.’ Ivy shrugged. ‘Her choice. And I don’t mind. Sacha never felt like a real mother to me. I was brought up by my father. That was her choice, too.’
‘But you came for her tonight.’
‘She always made the effort to come to events that were important to me.’
‘School concerts, graduation. Whenever I wanted both parents there for me.’
‘Will you be staying the weekend with her?’
‘Because I’d rather go home.’
‘Which is where?’
‘About a hundred kilometres from here.’
She wasn’t about to identify her location to him. The farm’s website gave it away and he might have read it when he decided to use their service for his rose gifts.
‘That’s quite a drive late at night.’
‘It won’t be late. People drift out of here after a couple of hours.’ She gave him an ironic grimace. ‘You whisked me off before I could get a brochure detailing the paintings from Henry. Did he give you one?’
‘Yes.’ He took it out of his jacket pocket and handed it to her.
Ivy withdrew her arm from his and checked the numbers of the nearby paintings against the list in the brochure, determined on deflecting his physical effect on her. ‘Right!’ she said briskly, pointing to number fifteen. ‘This is Courtyard in Sunshine. Do you like it?’
He folded his arms and considered it, obligingly falling in with her direction. ‘Very pleasant but a bit too chocolate-boxy for me.’
Privately Ivy agreed, but the painting already had a red sticker on it indicating a sale, so somebody had liked it. ‘Okay. Let’s move on. Find something that does appeal to you.’
‘Oh, I’ve already found that,’ he drawled in a seductive tone, compelling Ivy to shoot a glance at him.
The bedroom-blue eyes had her targeted. It was like being hit by an explosion of sexual promise that fired up a host of primitive desires. She had lusted mildly over some movie stars, but in real life…this was a totally new and highly unsettling experience. She didn’t even like this man…did she?
‘You’re wasting your time flirting with me,’ she blunt ly told him.
‘There’s nothing else I’d rather do,’ he declared, grinning as though her rebuff delighted him.
Ivy huffed at his persistence. ‘Well, if you must tag along in my wake, you’ll have to look properly at every painting or I’ll lose patience with you.’
‘If I buy one or two of them, will you have dinner with me?’
Had Ivy not been wearing such dangerous shoes, she would have stamped her foot. As it was, she glared at him in high dudgeon. ‘That is the most incredibly offensive thing anyone has ever said to me!’
He actually looked taken aback by her attack. The dent in his confidence gave Ivy a wild rush of satisfaction. Jordan Powell wasn’t going to find her easy.
He frowned. ‘I thought it would please you to have your mother pleased tonight.’
‘My mother has enough talent to draw buyers to her work or Henry wouldn’t have it hanging in his gallery,’ she retorted fiercely. ‘She doesn’t need me to sell myself to have a successful exhibition.’ Her chin lifted in proud defiance of his obvious belief that anyone could be bought. ‘I wouldn’t do it anyway.’
He grimaced an apology. ‘I didn’t mean…’
‘Oh, yes you did,’ she cut in. ‘I bet you think that all you have to do is offer your little goodies and any woman will fall in your lap.’
The grimace took on an ironic twist. ‘I wouldn’t call them little goodies.’
He might not have meant to put a sexual twist on those words, but Ivy felt her cheeks flame as an image of his naked body bloomed in her mind. ‘I don’t care how big they are,’ she insisted vehemently. ‘Why don’t you go on back to your mother? I don’t fit into your scene and never will.’
And having cut his feet out from under him, Ivy fully expected him to go. It would be the most sensible solution to the warring urge inside her to take what he was offering. Just to see, to know, to feel…
Which would inevitably end badly with her being discarded as he discarded all the rest.
JORDAN was faced with a decision he wasn’t used to facing. No woman had ever told him to leave her alone. No woman had ever thrown so many negatives at him, either. Maybe Ivy Thornton wouldn’t fit into his scene and he should walk away, stop wasting his time with her.
But he didn’t want to walk away.
He liked her thorns.
They made her more intriguing, more challenging than the women in ‘his scene’. And the fire-power coming from her incited visions of passion, lifting her desirability to virtually a must-have level. Just the sight of her had excited him. His fingertips itched to graze over every hidden part of her pale, almost translucent skin, not to mention stroking through the red-gold hair guarding her most intimate places.