Page 37 of Wife in Public

The contrast between the mothers was huge.

Totally different backgrounds, Ivy thought, hoping it would never become a divisive issue. Congratulatory kisses were bestowed. Jordan’s mother drew them over to a seated group of her closest friends to introduce Ivy. They were all very gracious to her, amused that Jordan had finally been caught, saying Ivy must have many admirable qualities to make him drop his playboy mantle, and wanting to hear their plans for the future. The conversation was easy, fun, and Ivy began to relax and enjoy herself.

After they’d posed for the society photographer for a few happy snaps, Olivia dragged them away, declaring her friends were insisting on an audience with the newly engaged couple. Ivy instantly seized the opportunity to thank Jordan’s sister for her letter, saying she hoped they could be friends in the future, too.

‘Just don’t bring any poison into my brother’s life and you’ll have my respect forever,’ Olivia replied, bubbling over with high spirits.

Champagne was flowing and all the introductions were carried out with good humour. Jordan fed it with his charm, satisfying the curiosity about their relationship with amusing stories of how hard he’d had to work to win her. The women admired the ring. The men admired her as a woman. Ivy felt herself being scrutinised from head to foot by both genders but there was no real discomfort from it. The general flow of approval put her at ease.

‘The pair of you look fantastic together,’ Heather whispered to her in passing. ‘You’re slaying ’em, Ivy. No worries.’

The only worry was in trying to remember the names of so many people. Jordan helped by repeating them throughout the conversations. On the whole, Ivy thought she was coping fairly well, but she was glad when Jordan insisted they be excused because he couldn’t wait any longer to dance with her.

It was a relief to be alone together for a little while, to simply sink into Jordan’s embrace and feel at one with him. The slow beat of the jazz waltz thumped through her heart, giving her a dreamy sense of contentment. This was her man and he was the best partner she could ever have to spend her life with.

‘Happy?’ he murmured, dropping a hot kiss on her hair.

She lifted her head up from his shoulder to shoot him a brilliant smile. ‘Very happy.’

He smiled back, the sexy simmer in his eyes giving her a buzz of pleasure. Making love tonight was going to be extra special. She wished they could leave now, but…

‘Please excuse me, Mr Powell. I have a message for Miss Thornton.’

It was the butler, startling them both with his intrusion on the dance floor. What message couldn’t wait a few more minutes until the music ended?

‘Some problem, Lloyd?’ Jordan asked, frowning at him.

‘Mrs Powell sent me to tell Miss Thornton her father has arrived.’

‘My father?’ Ivy cried in astonishment. ‘There must be some mistake. My father died over two years ago.’

The butler shook his head in dismayed confusion. ‘I have no knowledge of this. The man was not on the guest list but he showed identification and explained that he’d been in Melbourne on business and didn’t think he could make it to the party on such short notice. However, he’d managed to get an evening flight and didn’t want to miss such a special occasion for his daughter. It seemed reasonable…’

‘He’s an imposter,’ Ivy insisted, appalled that anyone would try such an offensive stunt.

‘We’ll very quickly sort it out,’ Jordan assured her. ‘Thank you, Lloyd. Not your fault you weren’t aware of Ivy’s family situation. Though my mother should have been. I told her.’

His frown deepened as he steered Ivy off the dance floor. ‘Let’s find Sacha first,’ he muttered. ‘Confront the guy with both of you.’

‘Yes,’ she agreed, her stomach churning at having to face the disgusting con-man. She wanted her mother there for back-up.

They found her out on the balcony with a group of her friends. Ivy quickly collected her for a private discussion with Jordan. As they joined him she was anxiously explaining, ‘A man has come here claiming to be my father, presenting some identification that has to be false. I need you to…’

Sacha stopped dead, shock draining the colour from her face. ‘No! No!’ The fierce denials exploded off her tongue. Her eyes glazed over.

Ivy grabbed her around the waist to support her, worrying that she was going to faint. It was awful, someone stepping into a dead man’s shoes to make some sensational situation, especially when her real father had been dearly loved. ‘I’m sorry,’ she blurted out. ‘It was a shock to me, too. He’s with Jordan’s mother, and we have to denounce him, Sacha, before he makes more mischief.’

A shudder ran through Sacha. The limpness was shaken off by a surge of outrage. ‘How dare he!’ She looked at Ivy with wildly ferocious eyes. ‘How dare he after all these years! The rotten snake in the grass!’

‘Who?’ Ivy asked, feeling a flutter of fear.

Sacha turned to Jordan in fighting determination. ‘We have to get rid of him. For Ivy’s sake. Order your security people to take him away and keep him away.’

‘But who is it?’ Ivy pleaded, not understanding anything.

‘Your father’s brother! Dick Thornton! Tricky Dicky!’ It was a snarl of hatred. ‘I haven’t seen him since before you were born, Ivy, but I know him to be a total bastard without any conscience whatsoever. You can bet he’s come to try and make some capital out of your connection to Jordan. It’s the kind of lousy thing he’d do.’

An uncle! Her father had never mentioned having a brother. His parents—her grandparents—had died before she was born, and he’d told her they were on their own, just the two of them, plus Sacha when they had weekends together.

‘Right! Let’s go and undo the mischief he’s already made,’ Jordan said grittily, his handsome face instantly settling into a look of formidable power.

He hooked his arm around Ivy’s to carry her along with him. She felt too dazed by the idea of having a wicked uncle to even begin to comprehend what it might mean to her. Sacha marched ahead of them, the panels of her split jacket flying out with the furious energy driving her forward.

The man standing beside Nonie Powell near the entrance to the ballroom had the gall to smile at their approach, not the least bit alarmed at the prospect of being unmasked as an imposter. He cut quite a fine figure in his formal black suit. He’d certainly made himself presentable. There were still some threads of ginger in his greying hair. The straight line of his nose was very similar to her father’s, as was the distinctive slant of his eyebrows. Ivy sucked in a sharp breath as his eyes—green eyes—targeted her with dancing delight.

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