Jordan was still sound asleep as she swept up her high-fashion gear and underclothes from the floor. Having crept out of the bedroom and closed the door on the scene of her surrender to temptation, she found herself on an inside balcony overlooking the foyer. It was easy to spot the staircase. She was bolting down it when a woman emerged from a room to the left of the foyer—smallish, grey-haired, wearing a white uniform.
They both halted in surprise at seeing each other.
The woman looked Ivy up and down, the expression on her face clearly saying, Here’s a new one.
It had to be the housekeeper, Ivy thought, trying to fight a hot tide of embarrassment.
‘Good morning,’ the woman said. ‘I’m Margaret Partridge, Jordan’s cook and housekeeper. You can call me Margaret. We don’t stand on ceremony here.’
‘Hello,’ Ivy blurted out, grateful for the matter-of-fact tone of the other woman’s greeting though her heart was still thumping madly over being discovered in the act of doing a runner. ‘I’m Ivy…Ivy Thornton. I…uh…need to get some day clothes out of my car.’
‘I’ll unlock the front door for you,’ Margaret said obligingly, moving to do so. ‘I was just on my way to the kitchen. Would you like a cup of coffee? Jordan rarely rises before nine on a Saturday morning so there’s no need to hurry over anything.’
‘Thank you, but I won’t wait. I have to get home,’ Ivy explained in a rush, quickly resuming her descent to the foyer.
Margaret’s eyebrows lifted quizzically. It was probably something else new to have one of Jordan Powell’s women leave his bed before he did. Ivy was super-conscious of the housekeeper’s firsthand knowledge of her employer’s affairs. The flush she hadn’t been able to stop was burning fiercely on her cheeks as she walked brisk ly to the opened front door.
‘I’m happy to cook you breakfast before you set off,’ Margaret offered, obviously curious about her.
‘That’s very kind.’ Ivy managed a polite smile. ‘But it’s only an hour’s drive. I’ll eat at home.’
‘You should have coffee before you go. It will perk you up for the drive. I’ll make it while you dress and have it ready for you in the kitchen.’
The uncritical manner of the housekeeper did ease some of Ivy’s embarrassment. Nevertheless, while there might be no danger of Jordan waking up any time soon, the situation was too uncomfortable for her to delay her departure any longer than she had to.
‘You probably don’t know where the kitchen is,’ Margaret ran on. ‘Last door on your right at the back of the foyer leads into the breakfast room. You walk through it to the kitchen. And there’s a powder room under the staircase where you can change if you don’t want to go back upstairs.’
‘Right! Thank you,’ Ivy said firmly, not committing herself to anything though she welcomed the information about the powder room. The handyman/chauffeur might be roaming around outside the house.
‘There’s no need to hurry,’ Margaret repeated, apparently sensing Ivy’s urge to bolt and wanting to reassure her that time wasn’t a problem.
Which might be true, but Ivy still didn’t want to risk having a clean escape foiled.
The housekeeper left the front door open for her. Ivy made a quick trip to her car, unlocked the trunk, dumped the clothes she was carrying, grabbed the blue jeans, white top and flat navy sandals, and was back inside the house with the door closed within a few minutes. The powder room was smaller than Jordan’s en suite bathroom but just as classy in grey and white and silver. Having dressed in her casual clothes and plaited the messy cloud of her hair, she looked for a hook to hang the black robe on. There wasn’t one. After dithering for several moments, she folded it up neatly and placed it on the vanity bench.
The seductive aroma of freshly brewed coffee hit her as she stepped out of the powder room. Again she dithered, aware it would be very rude to the helpful housekeeper to simply walk out without acknowledging her efforts to please. It was also very ill-mannered not to thank Jordan for the pleasure he had given her last night. Being dumped without a word was really quite nasty.
Deciding to risk staying a couple of more minutes, she followed Margaret’s directions to the breakfast room, which had such a fantastic view it momentarily stopped her. Beyond a wall of glass, a tiled patio surrounded a glorious blue swimming pool. Past that was the harbour, sparkling in the early-morning sunshine and already busy with water traffic.
Her gaze quickly swivelled around to take in the whole room. White tiles on the floor were largely covered by a beautiful thick rug in shades of blue and aqua. On this stood a glass-topped table surrounded by white leather chairs. Two Pro Hart paintings dominated the back wall—bushland scenes with vivid blue skies. This was how a billionaire enjoyed breakfast, she thought, pushing herself on to the kitchen.
It, also, was predominantly white and with the same view as the breakfast room. A quick glance around from the doorway revealed an extremely professional set-up with top-of-the-range appliances which would have seduced a master chef—a dream working area for any cook.
The housekeeper was pouring freshly brewed coffee into a mug. She smiled a welcome at Ivy and waved her to the stools on one side of an island bench. ‘Milk? Cream? Sugar?’ she inquired.
‘Please excuse me. I can’t stay. I must get home,’ Ivy said firmly. ‘I’ve left Jordan’s robe in the powder room. I hope you won’t mind returning it for me.’
‘Is there some emergency?’ Margaret cut in with a frown of concern.
‘I just have to go,’ Ivy replied, not wanting to be drawn into conversation. ‘I’d be grateful if you’d tell Jordan from me…thank you for the lovely night.’
Margaret nodded slowly. ‘All right. I’ll pass that on.’
Ivy flashed a smile of relief. ‘Thanks again for everything. Bye now.’
A quick wave of her hand and she was on her way out of Jordan Powell’s life, satisfied she had left with some grace.
Jordan was conscious of a sweet sense of well-being as he drifted up from sleep. Memory clicked in. Ivy. He opened his eyes, his mouth already curving into a smile. It was a jolt to find her gone from his bed, a further jolt to see her clothes were no longer on the floor. He darted a glance at the clock—8:27 a.m.
Maybe she was an early riser. People who worked on farms usually were. Margaret was always up early, too. Possibly she was giving Ivy breakfast. Feeling an urgent need to check, Jordan hurtled off the bed and strode to the bathroom.