‘My client wants to stop your marriage taking place,’ Elena Carson explained.
Struggling to focus on that startling admission, Molly gave the brunette a stunned appraisal. ‘Stop my marriage?’
‘My client is aware that it would be a very advantageous marriage from your point of view and is willing to give you a large sum of money to compensate you for changing your mind,’ the lawyer delivered calmly.
In shock, Molly parted dry lips and slowly folded them shut again. Someone wanted to pay her not to marry Leandro? Who? A member of his family? Another woman with designs on him?
‘I’m not interested in changing my mind,’ she replied without hesitation. ‘Have you thought about how hard it might be to fit into a titled Spanish family, who can trace their ancestors back to the fifteenth century? Have you thought about how difficult it might be to live up to your future husband’s high standards?’
Molly was steadily reddening with anger. ‘I don’t want to listen to any more of this nonsense. If Leandro was a king, I would feel equal to the challenge, because he is the father of my baby and I assume that he knew exactly what he was doing when he asked me to be his wife!’ she heard herself proclaim heatedly, only to inwardly squirm a second later at what she had given away with that outburst.
The other woman, however, did not bat an eyelash. ‘My client wants to act in everyone’s best interests and recognises that you would be making a considerable sacrifice in choosing not to go ahead with the marriage-’
‘Oh, does he…or is it, does she?’ Molly interrupted furiously as she shot to her feet.
‘And on that basis is prepared to offer you two million pounds towards making a new life for yourself somewhere else and never contacting Mr Carrera Marquez again,’ the older woman stated with complete cool.
‘As I’m not marrying Leandro for his money, you can’t use money as a bribe to persuade me not to marry him!’ Molly proclaimed with angry pride.
‘That was not my client’s intent, Miss Chapman. My client is aware that you are expecting a child and wishes to ensure that both you and your child will enjoy a secure future. You should consider the offer. It has been suggested that if you sign or have already signed a pre-nuptial agreement with your fiancé, you might well receive a great deal less money in any divorce settlement.’
Having signed such an agreement a couple of days previously, Molly was well aware of that fact. In short, any act of adultery, desertion or what was hazily termed ‘unreasonable behaviour’ during the course of their marriage would result in her instant impoverishment. But Molly was desperate to know who was prepared to offer such a vast amount of money to prevent her from marrying Leandro in the first place. The solicitor, however, refused to divulge that information. It outraged Molly to be kept in the dark when it was obvious that what she considered to be her own private business was clearly very far from being private. How many people had Leandro told about her pregnancy? And if she informed him about the offer that had been made to her, would he know who was behind it?
With only forty-eight hours to go before the wedding, Molly barely slept that night while she agonised over whether or not to tell Leandro. What if it was someone in his own family who was trying to buy her off and persuade her to disappear? With the kind of money involved she could only think that the culprit was most likely to be a close relative of his. Leandro would be outraged. Did she really want to risk causing that amount of trouble and strife within the family circle before she even arrived in Spain? Would it not be wiser to keep quiet for the moment and give people the chance to at least get to know her first…?
MOLLY examined her reflection in the wardrobe mirror from every angle.
Certainly Leandro would not be able to accuse her of looking insufficiently bridal. She had purchased every frivolous piece of finery possible for the occasion, right down to the filmy underwear and the lace garter adorned with a blue ribbon. Her dress was a fairy-tale dream of fluid organza styled over matt satin. The glass beading and metallic embroidery on the basque bodice and full skirt caught and reflected the light. Diamanté butterfly combs confined her mane of curls to the back of her head and, keen not to overdo the frills, she had added nothing else.
‘Are you ready?’ Jez asked. ‘The limo driver is panicking. But, you know, it’s not too late to change your mind.’
‘I know what I’m doing,’ Molly told her oldest friend. ‘I want my baby to have what I never had-a proper home and a family.’
‘Let’s hope Leandro is up to the challenge,’ the blond man responded drily.