His lean, darkly handsome face clenched with distaste. A storm of outrage roared through Leandro. ‘How dare you make such an assumption?’ he demanded in a seething undertone. ‘That is not how I would behave.’

‘Well, whatever!’ Molly shot back at him, her furious distress undiminished by that assurance. ‘Let’s hope we never have to explore that predicament.’

Leandro had had more than enough drama for one morning and he refused to be the ongoing target of her resentment and disdain. His lean, strong face was etched into forbidding lines and his stunning eyes were hot with indignation. ‘When are you planning to take responsibility for your own behaviour? And stop trying to blame me for it?’

Mortified colour washed Molly’s face, for he hit right home with that rejoinder. ‘Right now, all I want is for you to leave-’

‘Don’t worry,’ Leandro derided. ‘I have no desire to stay.’

Just at that moment the bedroom door opened and framed Jez’s broad, solid frame. He stared at her and Leandro with frowning blue eyes. ‘Why are you shouting, Molly? What’s going on in here?’

‘Leandro was just about to leave,’ Molly snapped.

‘I’m Jez Andrews, Molly’s friend,’ Jez addressed Leandro while at the same time taking up a protective stance beside Molly. ‘I think you should do as she asks and go now.’

Leandro was taken aback by the sudden appearance of another male and aggressive instincts threatened his rigid self-discipline. He was quick to recognise the possessive light in the younger man’s expression. Annoyance and suspicion slivered through Leandro, for it was not only obvious that Molly and Jez lived below the same roof but also that they were on familiar terms with each other.

‘You know how to get in touch with me if you need to,’ Leandro drawled in a tone of pure ice.

Molly was frozen where she stood until she heard the slam of the front door. Then she crumpled and tears rained down her face. Even while she fought to get a grip on herself, all the pent-up emotions of recent days were taking their toll and overflowing. Unused to her crying, Jez wrapped his arms round her in an awkward hug.

‘Who on earth was that bloke?’ Jez demanded when she had calmed down a little. ‘And what’s he got to do with you?’

After that, the whole story came tumbling out because Molly was so unnerved by the fear that she might fall pregnant she just had to get her feelings off her chest there and then. Before her reddened eyes, Jez’s expression grew more and more censorious. Although he said nothing and uttered no criticism, his surprise at her behaviour spoke volumes and pierced her pride. He was, however, a good deal more vocal when it came to Leandro.

‘A girl like you doesn’t belong in a limo.’ Jez saw her wince and hastened to add, ‘A bloke with that kind of money could only be messing around with you because he’s bored with his own kind.’

Jez had a shrewd streak about people that Molly respected. ‘Imagine asking me to be his mistress, though!’ she framed with a humourless laugh. ‘Do I look the ornamental type?’

‘I wish I’d thumped him,’ Jez growled, unamused. ‘You can do a hell of a lot better than him-’

‘Not if I fall pregnant,’ Molly interposed with a shiver of fear. ‘If I end up with a baby my whole life and my prospects go right down the tubes. I’ll never stop struggling to survive.’

‘Let’s hope for the best,’ Jez advised stonily, his face tightening while he considered that possibility. ‘You know, I always used to think that eventually you and I might get together.’

Molly settled dismayed eyes on him, for it had never occurred to her that he might look on her as anything other than an honorary sister. ‘But we’re friends-’

‘Yes, well.’ Jez shrugged defensively. ‘Why shouldn’t friendship be the first step in something more? We get on well. We know each other right through. There’d be no nasty surprises. It would have made a lot of sense.’

‘Don’t say any more,’ Molly urged unhappily, for she had never once considered Jez in that light. ‘All you’re doing is reminding me that getting involved with Leandro was like giving way to a sudden attack of madness.’

‘No point beating yourself up about it,’ the heavily built blond man pointed out in a tone of practicality. ‘That won’t change anything.’

Molly attended two craft fairs that weekend and the sale of several pieces of pottery lifted her spirits. As the following week wore on her mood steadily declined when her menstrual cycle failed to deliver the reassurance she sought. She was working long hours and her usual energy seemed strangely absent. She began feeling incredibly tired at about the same time as she started feeling nauseous and off her food. Anxiety took her over then, because she feared the worst and the shadows below her eyes deepened while she lay awake at night fretting. She was planning to go out and buy a pregnancy test when Jez persuaded her to go to the doctor instead to get a more reliable diagnosis.

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