Sacha arrived, beaming pleasure in this outing together until she saw there were no shopping bags at Ivy’s feet. ‘You haven’t found anything you like?’ she wailed in disappointment.
Ivy managed an ironic smile. ‘I met Jordan’s sister and lost the plot.’
Her mother frowned and sat down. ‘What do you mean?’
‘I mean I realised how big a fool I was for falling in love with him and I should end it right now.’
Sacha gaped at her in horror. ‘But, darling, you’re going on this marvellous cruise with him next week.’
She couldn’t, not feeling so torn up inside. Tears welled into her eyes. She hadn’t cried since her father’s death, but this was like a death, too, the killing of hopes and dreams she should never have let into her heart. Embarrassed at breaking down, she covered her face with her hands and tried desperately to choke off the heaving sensation making her chest unbearably tight.
She barely heard the anguished cry from her mother, but she felt the warm hug around her shoulders and the stroking of her hair. The caring gestures made it more difficult to bring herself under control but she finally managed it, hating the thought of making a spectacle of herself in a public place.
‘I’m okay,’ she bit out. ‘Sorry. Please…do sit down again.’
‘Ivy, I know I haven’t been the kind of mother you probably wanted but…let me help.’
‘There’s nothing to help. It was a mistake.’
Sacha resumed her seat on the other side of the table as Ivy blotted her face with a hastily grabbed tissue from her handbag. Aware that her mother was viewing her with anxious concern, she took several deep, calming breaths and forced a rueful little smile.
‘I should have kept my head. That’s all,’ she said with cutting finality.
‘Love isn’t about keeping one’s head,’ Sacha said wry ly. ‘It wasn’t sensible for your father and I to fall in love with each other—a hippie artist and a Vietnam veteran who needed a colourful butterfly to give him some zest for life again. It was even less sensible for us to get married, but you know, Ivy, I’ve never regretted it. Robert was the only man I’ve ever loved and I’m glad I had that experience.’
Ivy sighed, remembering how she’d argued herself into the affair with Jordan…as an experience worth having. ‘I guess the difference is…Dad loved you back.’
‘Are you sure Jordan doesn’t love you?’ Sacha queried. ‘He has been very, very attentive to pleasing you.’
‘More in lust with me than loving me, I’d say.’
‘Love and lust can be intertwined.’
Ivy shrugged. ‘On his weekends at the farm we went to a couple of dinner parties at my friends’ homes. They wanted to meet him and he was always a charming guest.’ She looked bleakly at her mother. ‘On my weekends with him, we always went away somewhere. I’ve never been introduced to any of his friends. Only to his sister by accident. What does that tell you?’
‘Maybe that he wanted you to himself.’
‘That’s not what Olivia thinks. Fit for the bedroom but not for being a partner in any public sense.’
‘What she thinks does not make her an authority on what her brother feels,’ Sacha retorted with an odd look of determination. ‘You should confront him directly about this, Ivy. All those roses he sent me…he wanted a chance with you. At least give him the chance to explain how he sees your relationship.’
Ivy remembered Jordan’s insistence on her being fair, not making assumptions about him, despite all the evidence that painted a very clear picture.
He hadn’t actually let her down.
She had let herself be blinded by her growing love for him, wanting what was special between them to encompass much more than it did. Nevertheless, her mother was right. It was only fair to tell Jordan face to face why she had decided their time was over.
‘Don’t worry. He won’t be sending you any more roses,’ she said dryly. ‘He’s expecting me at Balmoral this afternoon. I’ll go and see him, speak to him.’
‘Make sure you listen, too, Ivy,’ Sacha advised, still looking as though she wanted to argue Jordan’s case.
Because of who he is, Ivy thought. The billionaire tag was blinding and the power of wealth was seductive, providing all the luxurious living she had done over the past two months, which she had undeniably enjoyed.
Because she had been with him.
Weaving foolish dreams.
‘I’ll listen,’ she promised, picking up the menu from its stand on the table. ‘I don’t want to talk about this any more, Sacha. Let’s order lunch.’
She had no appetite.
Her stomach was cramped with tension.
She simply wanted some distraction from what she had to do later in the afternoon. They could talk about her mother’s paintings—the life she had made for herself apart from her marriage. It was what she had to do without Jordan—make a life alone because there would be no other man. There couldn’t be another man like him. It just wasn’t possible.
HIS mobile telephone rang just as Jordan was about to go into a meeting with a consortium of property developers. Ivy, he thought, smiling as he whipped the phone out of the breast pocket of his suit. It was almost three o’clock. Possibly she had finished shopping and was about to drive over to Balmoral. No doubt she’d chat with Margaret until he arrived. He motioned for his aide-de-camp to go ahead and settle everyone in the boardroom as he answered the call.
‘Jordan, it’s Olivia.’
A frown replaced the smile. What did his sister want of him now?
‘I think I might have made a mistake,’ she went on.
He rolled his eyes. Indulging his sister by listening to her troubles was not on at the moment. ‘Olivia, I have people waiting on me for a business meeting,’ he said curtly. ‘I’ll call you back when it’s over.’
‘No, wait!’ Urgent anxiety was in her voice. ‘It’s about Ivy.’
His impatience was instantly ejected by red alert signals going off in his brain. The only time Olivia had met Ivy she had been extremely nasty to her. ‘What mistake did you make?’ he asked, needing to know the worst.
‘I was with Caroline Sheldon and we went to Double Bay to do some shopping.’
Tension whipped through Jordan’s body at the mention of Double Bay and Caroline Sheldon, who could be as bitchy as Olivia about other women. This was shaping up to be a bad scene.