‘That’s not true,’ Jordan answered her firmly, picking up the ring and rising to his feet. ‘It was right! It was always right, Ivy. And I’m not about to let you down.’
‘But…’ Her hands fluttered in despair as the tears trickled down her cheeks.
Jordan caught her hands and slid the ring back on her finger, his eyes burning through her tears with an intensity of purpose that could not be broken. ‘We’re going to be together for the rest of our lives.’
And if it hadn’t been clear to his mother before why he loved this woman and wanted her as his wife, it should be crystal-clear now, as she witnessed Ivy’s anguish over this situation and her willingness to free him from it.
‘Bravo!’ Thornton crowed, clapping his hands at what he believed was his triumph.
Jordan shot him a sharply derisive look. ‘Bravo, indeed, Mr Thornton. You could not have done a better job of incriminating yourself.’
‘So what?’ Thornton retorted, totally unruffled. ‘It’s in everyone’s interests here to keep this private.’
Jordan hugged Ivy’s shoulders, tucking her close to him, wanting her to feel both comforted and protected as he confronted the slime who so richly deserved some comeuppance.
‘My father occasionally held business meetings in this library. He installed a mechanism in his desk to record them. I switched it on when I sat down. Should you go to any section of the media to sell your story, the first action they will take will be to check with me. I will then take the tape to the police and proceed with criminal charges.’
‘The story will still get out,’ Thornton countered belligerently.
‘No one will buy it, and you, sir, will go to jail without any money.’
‘Oh, bravo!’ It was Sacha this time, clapping her hands with sweet relief at some justice finally being done to the man who had tried to swindle his brother and raped her because she’d frustrated his scheme.
Jordan directed a commanding look at his mother. ‘Time to call in a couple of your security men, Mum. Best that our uninvited visitor be discreetly escorted from the premises.’
Nonie was up from her chair and sweeping out of the library before Dick Thornton had fully processed the fact that his scheme was defeated and he was about to be evicted.
‘Now look here!’ he blustered, rising from his chair to fight his corner. ‘I can still cause you embarrassment, turning up at your society events and telling all and sundry I’m Ivy’s dad. It must be worth something to you to have me stay away. That’s not blackmail. You can’t have me jailed for that.’
‘I can have you arrested for harassment,’ Jordan answered, not the least bit concerned by his threat. ‘I doubt a dad who deserted his daughter before she was born will be seen as having any rights at all. Why invite trouble when there’ll be no profit in it for you?’
That salient point gave the slimy con-man a momentary pause for thought. He then shot a vicious look at Ivy. ‘What about her? I can get to her when you’re not around. Buy me off and you can live in peace.’
Feeling Ivy shiver, Jordan hugged her more tightly and spoke with totally ruthless determination. ‘Do you want to be put under surveillance for the rest of your life, every dodgy move you make watched and reported on? As you pointed out, I’m a billionaire and I will go to any lengths—regardless of cost—to protect the woman I’m going to marry. I’ll pay whatever price I have to in order to preserve her peace, but not to you, Dick Thornton. I will never pay you a cent, and I’ll make you pay if you ever give Ivy any further distress. You can count on that.’
The extent of Jordan’s power and the relentless threat of it finally penetrated. The man stared back at him, the fight draining out of his face. He threw up his hands in defeat as Nonie Powell led two security guards into the library.
‘Okay. Call your dogs off,’ he snarled. ‘I won’t bother you again.’
‘Oh, I think I’ll have them stay on your tail, at least until you move to another city and make a life for yourself away from all of us,’ Jordan said to reinforce what he was prepared to do to ensure freedom from this man’s poison. Having cast the con-man a look of towering contempt, he addressed the guards. ‘Take this man to wherever he is currently housed and arrange to have him kept under constant surveillance until further notice.’
‘I told you I won’t bother you again,’ Thornton cried in panicky protest.
‘No, you won’t. I’ll see that you don’t,’ Jordan promised him. ‘I’d advise you to go quietly now. The idea of putting you on trial and sending you to jail is becoming more compelling by the moment. In fact…’
‘I’m going! I’m going!’
He went, closely escorted by the two security guards. Jordan was confident that Thornton would drop out of their lives as abruptly as he’d come into them. Nevertheless, he would keep a check on the con-man’s movements, just for extra assurance.
As soon as the door closed behind them he turned to his mother. ‘Mum, you and Sacha should return to the party now, preferably arm in arm, presenting a united front. I suggest you indicate you’ve had a happy chat about the forthcoming wedding. Any questions about Dick Thornton you dismiss by saying he was simply a brash party-crasher pretending to be someone he wasn’t. Which is true. Robert Thornton was Ivy’s father.’
‘Yes, he was,’ Sacha agreed with feeling, turning an apologetic face to Nonie. ‘I’m sorry this was all such a shock, Nonie, but the past is the past and I’ve put it behind me for so many years, I never imagined it would…’
‘We’ll move on,’ his mother cut in with her lofty air. ‘We must do as Jordan says to save any unpleasant tattle.’
His mother was well-practised at sweeping unpleasantness under the mat and keeping it there. He had no doubt she would handle the situation with her usual queen ly aplomb and guide Ivy’s mother into following her lead.
‘Yes. Yes, of course,’ Sacha agreed distractedly. She threw an anxious look back at Ivy as they moved towards the door. ‘Robert and I…we never meant you to know how you came to be born. I’m so sorry you’ve heard about it like this, but it doesn’t really matter, Ivy. You’ve always been loved. Very much.’
Ivy nodded. She couldn’t speak. Tears had welled in to her eyes again and emotional turmoil was still churning through her. The horror of Dick Thornton, the circumstances of her birth, the background of her parents’ marriage, her upbringing on the farm, Jordan’s determination to rid her of the nightmare of her biological father and fix every problem that could mar their life together…her mind was jammed with so many feelings it was impossible to think of what she should say or how to say it.