‘THE Valentino king of rose-giving is on the loose again,’ Heather Gale remarked, swinging around from her computer chair to grin at Ivy. ‘He’s just ordered the sticky date and ginger fudge with the three dozen red roses to go to his current woman. That’s his goodbye signature. Take it from me. She’s just been crossed out of his little black book.’
Ivy Thornton rolled her eyes over her sales manager’s salacious interest in Jordan Powell’s playboy activities. Ivy had met him once, very briefly at her mother’s last gallery exhibition of her paintings. That had been two years ago, soon after her father had died and she’d been coming to grips with running the rose farm without his guidance.
Much to her mother’s disgust, she’d worn jeans to the showing, completely disinterested in competing with the socialites who attended such events. For some perverse reason Jordan Powell had asked to be introduced to her, which had displeased her mother, having to own up to a daughter who had made no effort to look stunningly presentable.
There’d been curious interest in his eyes, probably because she didn’t fit in with the fashionable crowd. The encounter was very minimal. The gorgeous model hugging his arm quickly drew him away, jealous of his attention being directed even momentarily to any other woman.
Keeping him to herself would have been a top-priority aim.
The man was not only a billionaire but oozed sex appeal—twinkling, bedroom blue eyes, perfect male physique in the tall-dark-and-handsome mould, charming voice and manner with a strikingly sensual mouth that had worn a teasing quirk of amusement as he’d spoken to Ivy. No doubt, with his wealth and looks, the world and everyone in it existed for his amusement.
‘How long did this love interest last?’ she asked, knowing Heather enjoyed keeping tabs on his affairs. Jordan Powell was the rose farm’s biggest spender on the private-client list.
Heather turned eagerly back to the computer to check the records. ‘Let’s see…a month ago he ordered jelly beans with the roses so that meant he wanted her to lighten up and just have fun. She probably didn’t get the message, hence the parting of the ways. A month before that it was the rum and raisin fudge, which indicates the heavy-sex stage.’
‘You can’t really know that, Heather,’ Ivy dryly protested.
‘Stands to reason. He always starts off with the double chocolate fudge when he first sends roses to a new woman. Clearly into seduction at that point.’
‘I don’t think he needs to seduce anyone,’ Ivy muttered, thinking most women would willingly fall at his feet, given one ounce of encouragement.
Heather was not to be moved from her deductions. ‘Probably not, but I think some play hard to get for a little while,’ she explained. ‘Which is when he sends the roses with the macadamia fudge, meaning she’s driving him nuts so please come to the party. This last one didn’t get the macadamia gift.’
‘Straight into it I’d say,’ Heather agreed. ‘And that was…almost three months ago. He didn’t stick with her very long.’
‘Has he ever stuck with any woman very long?’
‘According to my records, six months has been the top limit so far, and that was only once. The usual is two to four months.’
She twirled the chair back to face Ivy, who was seated at her office desk, trying to get her mind into work mode but hopelessly distracted by the conversation which touched on sore points from her mother’s most recent telephone call. Another gallery exhibition. Another shot of advice to sell the rose farm and get a life in Sydney amongst interesting people. Insistence on a shopping trip so she could feel proud of her daughter’s appearance.
The problem was she and her mother occupied different worlds, had done so for as long as Ivy could remember. Her parents had never divorced but had lived separate lives, with Ivy being brought up by her father on the farm, while her mother indulged her need for cultural activities in the city. Horticulture was of no interest to her and she was constantly urging Ivy to leave it behind and experience the full art of living, which seemed to be endless parties with endless empty chatter.
Ivy loved the farm. It was what she knew, what she was comfortable with. And she had loved her father, loved him sharing the farm with her, teaching her everything about it. It was a good life, giving a sense of satisfaction and achievement. The only thing missing from it was a man she could love, and more importantly, one who loved her back. She had thought, believed…but no, Ben hadn’t supported her when she’d needed support.
‘Hey, maybe you’ll get to meet our rose Valentino again at your mother’s exhibition! And he’ll be free this time!’ Heather said with a waggish play of her eyebrows.
‘I very much doubt a man like him would turn up on his own,’ Ivy shot back at her, instantly pouring cold water over ridiculous speculation.
It didn’t dampen Heather’s cheerful outlook on possibilities. ‘You never know. I bet you could turn his head if you hung out your hair and dolled yourself up. How often do your see that glorious shade of red-gold hair? If you didn’t wear it in a plait, the sheer mass of it would catch his eye.’
‘So what if it did?’ Ivy loaded her voice with scepticism. ‘Do you think for one moment Jordan Powell would be interested in a country farm girl? Or for that matter, I’d be interested in being the next woman on his Valentino list?’
Undeterred, Heather cocked her head on one side consideringly, her hazel eyes sparkling with mischief in the making. Her brown hair was cut in an asymmetrical bob and she tucked the longer side of it behind her ear as she invariably did before getting down to business. She was brilliant at her job, a warm friendly person by nature, and although she was two years older than Ivy—almost at the thirty mark, which was when she planned to have a baby—they’d become close friends since Heather had married Barry Gale, who was in charge of the greenhouses.
She had wanted to work at the rose farm, too, and with her computer skills was a great asset to the business. Ivy thanked her lucky stars that Heather seemed to have dropped out of the heavens when someone to help manage the office work was most needed. It had been a very stressful time after her father had been diagnosed with inoperable cancer. Even knowing his illness was terminal she had not been prepared for his death. The grief, the sudden huge hole in her life…without Heather, she might not have been able to keep everything flowing to maintain the company’s reliable reputation.