Page 23 of Wife in Public

True, but…he needed to find out how profitable Ivy’s rose farm was, whether it was on shaky ground, check that she wasn’t a Cinderella in hiding as Biancha had been, because he knew only too well that it was the Cinderellas of both sexes who brought poison to his family’s wealth.

‘It does attract con-artists and fortune-hunters and Olivia invariably falls for them,’ he replied with an unguarded touch of bitterness.

‘That must be really nasty for her when she finds out she’s been fooled.’

Being fooled was always nasty. Only once had he fallen into that trap, and not even the promise of fantastic sex forever would blinker his eyes to it again.

‘It’s about time she exercised some judgement,’ he said grimly. ‘At least testing the waters before blindly wading in.’

‘Like you do?’

Her eyes reflected a mental reviewing of his many brief affairs in a different light. Not so much the playboy but the billionaire with a cynical part of his brain alert to anything false.

‘Ivy, we can continue this conversation later. We should move on now. I don’t trust Olivia not to hit the bottle again.’

‘Yes. Better get the coffee coming.’

He was grateful for her quick understanding. No selfishness, no sulky pouts at being put aside for a while, just a fair assessment of the situation and a reasonable reaction to it. He liked her all the more for it. He hoped she spoke the truth about not being a Cinderella.

They found Margaret in the kitchen. As usual, she had anticipated what would be needed and already had the coffee brewing. Margaret was no fool. She was always aware of everything in this household. Regardless of her former reservations about his pursuit of Ivy, she welcomed her with a smile and instantly offered to take care of her needs, too. The Saturday newspaper was spread out on the island bench, the travel section uppermost, and Ivy slid straight onto a stool, obviously prepared to wait for him and acquaint herself with his housekeeper.

Feeling sure that this issue was settled, Jordan switched his mind to dealing with Olivia and her problem. She was pacing around the lounge in nervous agitation—thankfully without a glass in her hand—when he took in the coffee, advising her to sit down, sip it and compose herself.

He waited until she did so, quelling his own impatience to get on with it, knowing that calm, cool deliberation had to be brought to damage control. He seated himself on the armchair adjacent to the sofa where Olivia had flung herself and thought about how to counter a blackmail threat until his sister could not contain herself any longer.

Having taken one sip of coffee, she threw a look of angst at him and blurted out, ‘He’s got a video of me having sex with him and he’s going to post it on the Internet if I don’t pay up.’

‘Did you agree to the video or did he film it without your permission?’

Her gaze dropped. She plucked at her trousers. ‘I…uh…thought it was fun at the time. Something…intimate…to watch together.’

Jordan shook his head. How many girls and women fell into that trap, letting their boyfriends take naked shots of them, only to find the photographs were not kept private—were posted on the Internet or flashed around on mobile phones? It was rotten behaviour by the guys, but with today’s technology at everyone’s fingertips, the women should wise up to the risk of being put out there.

‘It’s happening all the time, Olivia,’ he said, exasperated by her foolishness. ‘Why not tell him to publish and be damned? There’s nothing shameful about having sex with your husband.’

‘But anyone can look at it,’ she cried, appalled at his solution. ‘It’s humiliating, Jordan. I can’t bear the idea of lots of people having a peepshow of me.’

‘You’ve got a great body. You don’t mind showing it off. You won’t be the first heiress who’s had to weather baring all on the Internet,’ he said dismissively. And just maybe she’d be wiser next time around.

She grimaced and muttered, ‘It’s not just that.’

‘Then stop pussyfooting around and give me the real dirt, Olivia.’

She erupted from the sofa, throwing up her hands, flouncing around to avoid looking at him. ‘I was out of my mind. Ashton had a friend there, another gorgeous hunk. We were snorting cocaine, high as kites. Anyhow, it got to be a threesome. That’s what he’s got on the video.’

‘All of it? The cocaine, as well?’

‘Yes,’ she hissed at him, eyes blazing hatred at having to confess her own sins.

‘Are you in the habit of doing coke, Olivia?’

She stamped her foot at his inquisition. ‘Everybody does at parties. You know they do,’ she shouted at him.

He stared back at her in silent, burning reproof. Many did, but he didn’t and she knew it. Apart from alcohol in moderation he never touched recreational drugs and he didn’t want to see his sister take the downward spiral that so commonly ended in depression and disaster.

‘I didn’t do it much until Ashton started getting regular supplies,’ she said, trying to mitigate her usage.

Possibly it was true. It would obviously serve Ashton’s purpose to get Olivia hooked. ‘Okay,’ he said calmly. ‘I have the picture now. Sit down while I think about how to get you out of this mess.’

Relieved that she had finally loaded it off onto his shoulders, she dropped onto the sofa and resumed sipping coffee while darting anxious little glances at him.

Jordan mentally plotted the moves that had to be made. Call his lawyer to enquire about all the legal angles. Call his security guy. Olivia would have to be wired and rehearsed into how to get Ashton’s blackmail threat on tape. Once he could be threatened with criminal prosecution, Jordan was fairly sure a reasonable settlement could be reached. Pretty-boy Ashton wouldn’t enjoy a spell in jail. Olivia had to get stone-cold sober and stay sober until the situation was resolved, and then agree to a month in a rehabilitation centre.

He took out his mobile phone and called his mother. Fortunately she was home and, having been apprised of the problem, agreed to look after Olivia and ensure she was sober for a management meeting tomorrow morning. That gave him the rest of today and tonight with Ivy before he had to act for his sister who certainly deserved to stew overnight for being so damned stupid and careless.

He then called Ray to get the Bentley out to drive Olivia to his mother’s Palm Beach residence. He would drive the Porsche there himself in the morning. Having dumped her problem in her brother’s hands and now sure he would fix it for her, Olivia meekly followed his orders.

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