Page 30 of Wife in Public

But it hadn’t stopped her from walking away in the past.

He clamped down on the negative thought. He’d win her over. He’d done it before. He’d do it again. That determination rode with him the rest of the way home.

Margaret intercepted him as he strode through the house to the back terraces. She handed him a tray which held a wine bottle in an ice-bucket, two glasses and a selection of savoury dips and crackers. ‘This might help,’ she said.

‘Thanks, Margaret.’ He took the tray. ‘Ivy still out there?’

‘Hasn’t returned to the house,’ she threw over her shoulder as she moved quickly to open the exit door for him.

‘It’s Olivia’s doing,’ he tossed at her as he passed, too vexed with the situation to accept the blame shooting at him from his housekeeper’s eyes. Damn it all! He’d done the best he could, keeping Ivy away from the gossip-mill of the socialite world, the jealous snipes, the boozy parties, the self-destructive fools who indulged in recreational drugs. He shouldn’t be shot down over his sister’s transgression.

A wave of anger crashed through him.

There was so much good to be had in his world. Hadn’t he shown Ivy that side of it? And he could keep on showing her if she’d just let him. Ending it here and now wasn’t fair. He’d make her see that. Make her feel it!

Ivy had her gaze trained on the brilliant view of Sydney Harbour from her cushioned seat in the pagoda, but the images of boats and white-crested blue water barely impinged on her consciousness. Waiting for Jordan was like being in a suspended state of animation, knowing she couldn’t go back to what they’d had together, yet unable to move forward until after she had laid that out to him.

In a way it was a relief that Olivia had told him about their encounter. At least she wouldn’t have to explain that scene. Whether his sister was sorry or not didn’t matter. It was best to end the relationship anyway.

Footsteps clacking down the path from the pool terrace, fast and purposeful.

It had to be Jordan.

Ivy tensed, feeling the power of the man coming closer and closer. He stepped into the pagoda, carrying a tray of refreshments and a ruthless air of command that instantly sent tingles of alarm down Ivy’s spine. There would be no gracious letting go. Jordan was intent on fighting for what he wanted and exploiting every bit of vulnerability he could use.

As he had before, she reminded herself.

Except she wouldn’t fall for it this time.

Her mind was steel on that point, even though her body quivered weakly at his nearness.

‘A glass of wine?’ he asked, setting the tray on the table, laser-blue eyes searching hers for some chink of giving.

‘No, thank you. I’ll be driving home very shortly, Jordan. I was thinking…maybe you could contact the people you bought the cruise package from and give it back to them. I won’t be going and if you don’t want to go without me, it will be wasted.’

He left the table, took a seat on the cushioned bench facing hers, and leaned forward, elbows on his knees, transmitting a patience that had a belligerent edge to it. ‘What’s behind this decision, Ivy?’ he shot at her.

‘Our time is up,’ she answered with direct simplicity

He shook his head. ‘That’s not true. What did Olivia say to make you think that?’

‘She made me see what I am to you.’

‘Olivia doesn’t have a clue what you are to me,’ was his emphatic retort. ‘She only sees things through her own eyes.’

‘No. It rang all the bells. You have been a great lover, Jordan, and I thank you for all the pleasure you’ve given me. I wish I could have been more to you than your closet mistress, but…’

‘My what?’

Ivy’s heart kicked into a gallop at the violence of feeling exploding from his mouth, zapping from his eyes, shooting him to his feet in furious outrage, his hands clenched. She’d never seen Jordan angry and it was frightening.

‘Please…will you sit down and hear me out?’ she quick ly begged, scared that he might use physical force to bring her back to him.

‘You’re talking garbage, Ivy.’

‘No, I’m not.’

He glared his impatience with her denial, saw the determined jut of her chin, the rejection of what he might do in her eyes, and resumed his seat, stretching his arms out along the backrest to defuse any sense of threat, watching her with an intensity that shredded Ivy’s nerves. One hand flipped a dismissal as he said, ‘It hasn’t been an easy three hours since Olivia’s call to me. I would have corrected what she said to you a lot sooner if you’d contacted me. Whatever you’re thinking now is wrong, Ivy.’

‘Then why have you never introduced me to your friends, your social circle?’ she bored in.

‘Because you claimed, right from the start, that you wouldn’t fit into my scene, and I wanted the pleasure of your company without anything negative taking you away from me.’

The calm, matter-of-fact reply confused Ivy for a few moments. She had used their different worlds as a point of resistance to Jordan, but he had proved he could fit into hers. He hadn’t given her the chance to come to terms with his. And hadn’t planned to. Ever. He had set out to keep her happy in his bed because that was where he wanted her. There’d been no intention to see if she could be his partner in life.

‘That’s not how a real relationship works,’ she said with conviction. ‘You have been keeping me in your closet, Jordan, distracting me from that truth by taking me on a lot of marvellous out-of-the-way rides.’

‘Wouldn’t you say we got to know each other very well on those rides? And enjoyed being together?’

‘Of course, I enjoyed it. Who wouldn’t? You swept me off my feet in every sense, made a perfect fantasy of our time together. And you would have kept doing it with the cruise, as well, and I would have been too besotted with you to notice.’

‘Notice what?’

‘How it was simply getaway time for you. Not real time. And when the pleasure of it finally wore thin, I’d be jettisoned from your life, like all the rest.’ She gave him a bleak little smile. ‘Without the roses.’

He stared at her in silence.

No quick comeback.

No rebuttal.

She remembered the emphasis he’d placed on honesty and realised he couldn’t lie to her.

The hope for some different outcome died in her heart.

He didn’t love her as she loved him.

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