Page 3 of Wife in Public

‘I shall make that very clear to anyone I invite in future,’ Jordan solemnly promised. ‘I’m sorry my judgement of character was somewhat blurred in this in stance.’

Margaret sniffed again. ‘You could try practising looking beyond the surface.’

‘I shall attempt to plumb the depths next time.’

‘Out of bed as well as in it,’ she whipped back at him.

He heaved a sigh. ‘Now is that nice, Margaret? Am I ever anything but nice to you? Haven’t I just shown how much I care about your feelings by breaking it off with Corinne?’

‘Good riddance!’ she declared with satisfaction. ‘And it’s on account of the fact that you’re always nice to me that I didn’t burn your breakfast.’ A smile was finally bestowed on him. ‘Enjoy it!’

On her way out of the sunroom a triumphant mutter floated back to him. ‘She had a big bum anyhow.’

Clearly a flaw to true physical beauty in Margaret’s mind. It left Jordan’s mouth twitching with amusement. Margaret was virtually bumless, a short, skinny woman in her fifties, totally disinterested in enhancing her femininity. She never wore make-up, was hardly ever out of the white shirtmaker dresses which she considered a suitable uniform for her position, along with flat white lace-up shoes. Her unashamedly grey hair was invariably screwed up into a neat bun on top of her head. However, she did exude quite extraordinary energy and there was a lot of sharp intelligence in her bright, brown eyes, along with the sharp wit that occasionally flew off her tongue.

Jordan had liked her immediately.

When he had interviewed her for the job she had told him she was divorced, didn’t intend ever to marry again, and if she had to keep a house and cook for a man, she’d rather be paid for it. Her two children were doing fine for themselves and she liked the idea of doing fine for herself, being employed by a billionaire in a house full of luxuries. If he would give her a month’s trial, she would prove he’d be lucky to find anyone better.

Jordan considered himself very lucky to have found Margaret. He especially appreciated how fortunate he was as he tucked into his superbly cooked breakfast. There were always beautiful women vying for his attention and he enjoyed having a taste of them, but none of them stayed as constantly delectable as Margaret’s meals.

Corinne could be easily replaced. As for looking for more than a bed partner…no, he wasn’t going down that road again, having almost been drawn into proposing marriage by the extremely artful Biancha who had presented herself as the perfect wife for him, so perfectly obliging to his every need and desire it had struck a slightly uneasy chord in him, though not enough to pull him back from the brink until the deception unravelled.

She’d known all along that her father’s supposed wealth was a house of cards about to fall…totally dishonest about her family situation…and when the collapse could no longer be held off, it had become sickeningly obvious that she had targeted him to be her rescue package. No way would she have put herself out so much for the man…without the billions to keep her life sweet.

Margaret might have spotted Biancha’s true colours if she’d been working for him then. Not much got past his shrewd housekeeper. In fact, having such a jewel running his house, he saw no reason whatsoever to take a wife, especially when he was never short of bed partners.

Too few marriages worked for long, especially in his social set, and there was nothing more sour than the financial fallout that came with divorce. He’d witnessed enough of those problems with his sister’s marriages. Three times now Olivia had blindly hooked up with fortune-hunters, not even learning from experience, which annoyed the hell out of him. As the old saying went, once bitten should have made her twice shy. A million times shy in his book!

At least his parents had had the sense to keep their marriage together, although that had been a different generation. His father had been very discreet about his string of mistresses, allowing his mother to maintain her pride in being the wife of one of the most prominent property tycoons in Australia and enjoy the pleasure of the brilliant lifestyle he provided. Besides, she had had her ‘walkers’ whenever his father hadn’t been available to accompany her to the opera or the theatre—gay men who loved the arts as much as she did, and who were delighted to have the privilege of escorting her, thereby getting free tickets.

His parents had kept the bond going for thirty years, and there’d still been some affection between them at the end, his mother genuinely grieving over his father’s death. It was a lot of shared years, regardless of the ups and downs. Jordan doubted there was a woman alive who could interest him enough to want to share more than even a few months with her. They invariably turned out to be too damned full of themselves.

I want…I need…look at me…talk to me. If I’m not the centre of your universe, I’m going to sulk or throw a tantrum.

He’d just finished breakfast when his mobile rang. He took it out of his shirt pocket, hoping it wasn’t Corinne calling to appeal for some reconsideration. That would be extremely tedious. She’d been nastily dismissive of Margaret’s feelings, and he wasn’t about to accept any excuse for her rudeness to a highly valued employee.

It was a relief to find it was his mother wanting contact with him.

‘Good morning,’ he said cheerfully. ‘What can I do for you?’

‘You can be free this Friday evening to escort me to an art gallery,’ she replied with her usual queenly aplomb. It was amazing how many people bowed to her will when she employed that tone. Of course, the wealth backing it had a big influence. Nonie Powell was known to be enormously charitable, and she was not above using that as a power tool.

Jordan, however, did not have to be a courtier. ‘What’s wrong with Murray?’ he demanded, wondering if the ‘walker’ she most relied upon had somehow lost her favour.

‘The poor boy slipped on wet tiles and broke his ankle.’

The poor boy was a very dapper sixty year old.

‘I’m sorry to hear that. What’s on at what gallery?’

‘It’s dear Henry’s gallery at Paddington. He’s showing Sacha Thornton’s latest work. You bought two of her paintings at her last exhibition so you should be interested in seeing what she’s done more recently.’

He remembered. Lots of vivid colour. A field of poppies in Italy and a vase of marigolds. The paintings had brightened up the walls at the sales office for one of his retirement villages. He also remembered the vivid red-gold hair of Sacha Thornton’s daughter. She’d worn jeans. Margaret would have approved of her bum. Very neat. But it was the hair that had drawn him into asking for an introduction.

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