Immediately Ran tensed, his jaw tightening.
‘Alex told you?’ he demanded. ‘That was supposed to be—’
‘Alex hasn’t told me anything,’ Mollie assured him. ‘He didn’t need to tell me, Ran; I guessed.’
‘By knowing the kind of man you are and subtracting that from the way you behave towards Sylvie, and coming up with a figure that just doesn’t add up, not unless you add another ingredient to it,’ she told him with a small smile. ‘Why don’t you tell her how you feel...?’
‘She knows,’ Ran told her shortly. ‘Look, Mollie, I appreciate your concern,’ he said. ‘Maybe once, as a child, a young woman, Sylvie did love me, but that’s all changed now. She’s not a young girl any more, she’s an adult. There’ve been other men in her life, men who—’
‘What other men?’ Mollie challenged him, and then added boldly before he could answer, ‘You are the only lover Sylvie has ever had, Ran, the only one she’s ever wanted...’
‘No...that’s not true,’ Ran denied, but Mollie could see the way he changed colour, his face paling beneath his outdoor tan. ‘She and Wayne were lovers and now she has Lloyd.’
‘No,’ Mollie denied firmly, and then added more gently, ‘No, Ran. Wayne and Sylvie were never lovers. She told me that at the time and I know it was the truth. She’s said very much the same thing since, very recently.’
‘How recently?’ Ran pounced, and then shook his head. ‘This isn’t about other men, other loves. I would still feel the same way about her no matter how many other men there’d been in her life, but I can’t, won’t impose either myself or my love on her. She loves Lloyd.’
‘Yes, she does,’ Mollie agreed, ‘but she loves him as a friend, Ran, not as a man.’
‘You wouldn’t say that if you’d heard her talking to him on the phone as I did, pleading with him to see her...’
Mollie took a deep breath. Before following Ran out here to talk with him there had been certain limits she had imposed on her revelations, certain boundaries she had told herself she must not and would not cross, certain confidences she would not share, but now she knew that she was going to have to break that self-imposed sanction.
‘Pleading with him to see her because she wants to be taken off the Haverton Hall project,’ Mollie told him quietly. ‘She’s desperately afraid, Ran, afraid of the way she feels about you and afraid of... She told me herself that she just doesn’t think she can take any more. She said it was impossible for her to do her work properly when all she could think about was you. She wants Lloyd to allow her to work on something else, something that doesn’t involve her in any kind of contact with you... It’s up to you, Ran,’ she told him simply, ‘If you love her...’
‘I saw the way she reacted when Lloyd left her to go to London with Vicky,’ Ran told her tersely.
‘Lloyd has never been her lover, Ran,’ Mollie reasserted. ‘She doesn’t love him in that way, but if you doubt my word, if you really want to know the truth, there’s only one person you need to talk with, isn’t there? If you don’t believe me, Ran, then think about this: why should a woman, any woman, not just allow but encourage a man to make love to her when she has been deliberately celibate for years and when she believes that he cares nothing for her? Why, unless it’s because her own emotions are so strong, so powerful, that they are outside her own control? Very few human emotions come into that kind of category, Ran.
‘Oh, and by the way...’ Mollie paused and turned round as she started to walk away from him. ‘I nearly forgot. Sylvie telephoned last night. She’s spoken to Lloyd and he’s agreed that she can leave Haverton whenever she wishes. She’s booked on a flight from London tomorrow.
‘Sometimes, for a woman, just being loved isn’t enough.
Sometimes we need more than an act of faith and sometimes we need to be told, shown, to see it, to hear it, touch it, taste it.’
* * *
‘What’s the matter with Ran?’ Alex asked Mollie curiously half an hour later as he walked into her sitting room. ‘I’ve just passed him on the lane; he said he was going back to Haverton. He said something urgent had come up.’
‘Mollie...’ Alex said perceptively. ‘What’s been going on? What have you—?’
‘Oh...’ Putting her hand to her mouth, Mollie got up and raced for the door.
Morning sickness—what a euphemism, Alex decided. Poor Mollie suffered from it all day. Sympathetically he went to follow her.