Graham and Heather came to lunch on Saturday, and Jordan impressed both of them with his appreciation of their contribution to the success of the farm. He didn’t present himself as a playboy at all, talking of his own experience with employees, saying how much he valued those he trusted to get the job done. Graham was quickly at ease with him and Heather barely stopped short of drooling—Jordan was so gorgeous!
When the cruise was mentioned, both of them were enthusiastic about a break from the farm for Ivy and assured her they would look after everything.
Ivy let herself relax and enjoy every minute with Jordan. He made it easy, being the perfect lover in every sense.
Again he telephoned her every night during the week, keeping their connection strong. He arrived by helicopter on Saturday morning and flew her to Port Macquarie, a beach resort on the north coast of New South Wales where he was building a new retirement village and nursing home. He shared his vision for it with her, impressing her once again with his caring for the elderly. They ate in the best restaurants the town had to offer and slept in a luxurious apartment that overlooked Flynn’s Beach.
He never seemed bored by the weekends he spent on the farm with her, and on his alternate weekends he invariably took Ivy somewhere special—to the Blue Mountains and the amazing Jenolan Caves, to Port Douglas and the Great Barrier Reef, to the Red Centre and Uluru, to the Hunter Valley vineyards. Cost, of course, was no object to Jordan and Ivy decided not to quibble about it. He was taking her on a fantastic ride—the ride of a lifetime—and even if it only lasted six months, which was his uppermost limit for an affair, she was certainly living brilliantly for a while.
More and more she shied away from thinking about the end. Her pleasure in Jordan’s company was so intense, the idea of coming to an end was too frightening to contemplate. She loved him, loved everything about him. She lived for the next time they’d be together.
The week before they were due to leave for the cruise, Ivy decided to treat herself to a shopping day, wanting to dress up for the dinners on the ship. Her mother suggested she trawl through the boutiques at Double Bay and meet her for lunch at a bistro she named, since they hadn’t seen anything of each other since the gallery exhibition. Having been told of this plan, Jordan invited her to stay overnight with him at Balmoral at the end of the day so she could parade her purchases, which would be fun for both of them.
Ivy was in a happy mood, wandering around the Double Bay shopping centre, looking at the window displays before deciding what might suit her. She was trying on a slinky violet pantsuit in the Liz Davenport boutique, admiring the cut and line of it in the wall mirror, when Olivia Powell walked in with another woman, both of them dressed in high-fashion gear.
Having not met Jordan’s sister since the unpleasant scene in his house, she hesitated over whether to acknowledge the brief acquaintance as it would remind Olivia of things she probably wanted to forget. On the other hand, this was the sister of the man she loved. It didn’t seem right to ignore her presence.
While Ivy was still dithering over this social dilemma, Olivia glanced around, her gaze picking up Ivy’s direct stare at her in the mirror. Her perfectly plucked black eyebrows arched in surprise. Then a look of amusement settled on her face.
‘Well, well, if it isn’t Jordan’s farm girl,’ she drawled.
Her companion’s attention was instantly drawn to Ivy. ‘Who?’ she asked.
‘Darling, you are looking at the reason why Jordan has been shunning the social scene.’
The other woman goggled at Ivy with avid curiosity. ‘A farm girl?’
‘Mmmh…so my mother told me when I asked about his new interest.’
‘Then what is she doing here?’
‘Good question. Maybe he’s decided to bring her out of the closet and wants her decently clothed.’
There was no attempt to lower their voices. Ivy heard every word and the unfriendliness of Olivia’s attitude, the scorn in her tone, made her stomach churn with a sense of sick vulnerability. Jordan wasn’t here to fend off his sister’s nastiness and Ivy knew, even before Olivia started strolling towards her, knew from the malicious glint in her eyes, that she was about to be subjected to a humiliating public attack.
Pride made her stand her ground.
Olivia closed in, her mouth curling with a savage mockery. ‘Did you stick Jordan for a dress allowance, Ivy?’
Embarrassment was burning her cheeks. Her mouth was dry. She quickly worked some moisture into it, lifted her chin, and answered. ‘No. I’ve taken no money from Jordan at all, Olivia.’
‘Oh? Investing in yourself, are you? Showing him if you can look the part, you might get further than his bedroom?’
Ivy shook her head, finding it difficult to counter such virulence. ‘Why are you gunning for me like this, Olivia?’ she blurted out. ‘I’ve never done anything bad to you.’
‘Your kind has taken too many bites out of me. No doubt you’re as sweet as pie to Jordan, just as Ashton was to me, but let me tell you, my brother is the clever one. You’re wasting your time and your money on him. You can crawl into his bed, but you won’t get past his head which is screwed on very tightly. Put one foot over the boundaries he’s set and you’ll get dumped, just like all the rest.’
Boundaries…keeping her in his closet…no social contact with his friends…the realisation that Olivia was telling exactly how it was hit into Ivy’s heart like a sledgehammer. She couldn’t protest. It was pointless even carrying on a conversation. She looked into Olivia’s blue eyes—Jordan’s eyes—and knew what she had known all along but this time much more painfully. She was not of their world, never would be.
‘Thank you,’ she said. ‘I appreciate your caring.’
At least Olivia’s startled look at her response was some balm to her pride.
‘Please excuse me,’ she went on with as much dignity as she could muster. ‘I need to change back into my own clothes. Rest assured I’ll be out of your brother’s life very soon.’
She didn’t wait for a reply, heading straight for the change room, no longer interested in buying stylish clothes. Thankfully Olivia and her companion were gone when she emerged. Not wanting to run into them again and grateful that the bistro Sacha had named was in a back street, she hurried there, sitting over a cup of coffee while she waited for her mother, silently berating herself for falling in love with a man who should have always remained a fantasy.