Tears glittered in her eyes. She dashed them away to glare her hatred at Dick Thornton again. ‘Until his brother came, preying on Robert’s sense of family, saying he didn’t need his part of their inheritance to build a future because he was sterile and had no future.’
‘If you’d kept your big mouth shut, Sacha, Robert would have turned what our parents left him over to me and you’d have gone on your own merry way, just smelling the roses,’ he said mockingly.
Sheer rage erupted. ‘You sick bastard! You set out to make Robert feel worthless and he wasn’t. He had the right to build a life for himself and I wasn’t going to let you take the money he could buy a farm with.’
‘So you stuck your oar in and I stuck mine in,’ he retorted in a crass jeer.
‘By raping her as payback for interfering,’ Jordan inserted quietly.
‘Gave me a lot of satisfaction,’ Dick Thornton admitted with relish, then quickly checked himself. ‘Her word against mine in any court of law. Besides, it’s all water under the bridge. What counts now is you wanting to marry my beautiful daughter and me wanting a slice of her good fortune.’
‘Jordan, you cannot submit to a blackmailer,’ Nonie Powell stated in high dudgeon. ‘This marriage is clearly unsuitable. Best that you walk away from it right now.’
‘Ivy is totally innocent of any wrongdoing!’ Sacha snapped at her. ‘Can you say the same of your own daughter, Nonie?’
Although it had to be a blind hit, it caused Nonie Powell to press her lips together. She looked at Ivy in angry reproof, as though Sacha had learned of Olivia’s problems from her. Which wasn’t true. She hadn’t spoken a word to anyone about Ashton’s attempt at blackmail.
Jordan flicked a querying look at her.
She shook her head, but the implication that she might have blabbed sickened her. No relationship could work without trust. As it was, she wasn’t sure their relationship could survive tonight’s revelations.
Her mind was awash with the flood of information about both her parents and the situation which had brought them together and led to their marriage—a marriage of need and compassion and love which she hadn’t understood until now. Robert and Sacha were good people but that didn’t matter, any more than her own innocence of any wrong-doing mattered. There was no escaping the fact that she was the daughter of a rapist, and would be forever tainted by this rotten man.
Jordan sat in silence, weighing up what he’d heard so far. He had instinctively dismissed his mother’s solution—walk away from it—though that would, of course, extract him from this nasty mess. If it was only lust driving him to keep Ivy in his life…if he still actually anticipated a marriage that only lasted as long as their passion ran hot…why bother dealing with this scum?
He looked at Ivy.
She shook her head as though she’d already given up on the idea of a future together, her eyes sick and despairing, her face totally stricken by all she’d been hearing.
His heart went out to her.
He knew in that instant that this woman meant more to him than anything else in his life. No doubts. No doubts about their future together, either. Nothing on earth could make him walk away from her. He had to fight the urge to get up and take her out of all this right now. The situation had to be resolved first or she’d be haunted by it. He would not let it come between them. Ever.
He turned a stern gaze to his mother. ‘In our family, there have been private matters which we’ve preferred not to bare, Mum. Let’s not make hasty judgements on others. I see no fault in Sacha. And certainly not in Ivy. I’d appreciate it if you’d refrain from any further reactive comment and take into account the nobility of decisions made for the good of others. That deserves respect and admiration, not criticism.’
Nonie frowned at him, not used to being chastised for her behaviour and affronted that it be done in front of others, but she hadn’t given any consideration to Ivy’s feelings and it was well past time she started giving some consideration to how he felt, too.
‘While we’re on the subject of noble sacrifices, let’s get to how much you’ll sacrifice for my silence,’ Dick Thornton said cheerfully. ‘Make it good and you can all play happy families again.’
Jordan wiped everything else from his mind and concentrated on drawing out what was needed. ‘How much do you think your silence is worth?’ he asked coldly.
‘Well, I’m sure parts of the media would gobble up a story like this. Hippie headquarters in a deserted mansion, free love amongst the squatters, brother pitted against brother by our gorgeous butterfly artist, the baby she dumped on one brother to be free to pursue her own career….’
‘I did not dump Ivy!’ Sacha cried, unable to contain her fury at the malignment. ‘She was happy with Robert.’ Her gaze turned pleadingly to her daughter. ‘I tried living on the farm. I helped Robert start it and worked along with him, but it wasn’t the kind of life I wanted and Robert knew it. The artist in me craved much more of the world but he had seen too much of it in Vietnam and the farm was the only world he wanted. He insisted that I go, said I’d given him his life and he wanted to give me mine. We still had weekends together, at the farm or in the city. I didn’t dump you, Ivy. I simply couldn’t take you away from Robert. You were so much his little girl.’
‘Except she wasn’t,’ Thornton mocked. ‘And that lie makes my story all the more credible and valuable, doesn’t it, Mr Powell? Lovely fruity fodder for gossip.’
Jordan held up a warning hand to Sacha, not wanting her to interrupt again. ‘Name your price, Mr Thornton.’
‘Oh, I won’t be too greedy,’ Dick Thornton drawled, believing he was in the box seat. ‘Given the fact that you’re a billionaire, I think five million dollars is a relatively modest amount.’
‘You want five million dollars from me or you’ll make your version of the past public. Is that what you’re threatening?’ Jordan bored in.
‘In a nutshell, yes,’ Thornton replied, grinning from ear to ear.
‘No!’ Ivy leapt up from her chair, anguished eyes begging him to understand. ‘You mustn’t do it, Jordan. This will only be the start.’ She tugged at the ring he’d put on her finger as she headed for the desk. ‘Whatever he says won’t be worth anything if I don’t marry you. Take this ring back.’ She laid it on the desk. ‘You can say it was a mistake ever to get involved with me.’ Tears pooled in her eyes. ‘It was. I always knew it was…just a fantasy.’