Hot colour drenched Molly’s cheeks and she was about to argue with that statement when it occurred to her that, as Leandro’s bride, it might be wiser for her to keep quiet on that score. Was there some particular way she looked at him? Embarrassment claimed her.
Away from her intimidating mother, Julieta was a different girl. She lifted two glasses from a passing tray and offered one to Molly with a friendly smile.
‘I can’t drink,’ Molly responded with an apologetic grimace.
‘Sorry…I forgot you were preggers,’ the attractive brunette confided in perfect colloquial English. ‘We’re all still in shock about that. It took you five minutes to achieve what Aloise couldn’t manage in five years!’
That one illuminating sentence satisfied Molly’s curiosity on several scores. Her husband’s first marriage had lasted five years and his wife, Aloise, had failed to conceive. Did that history explain why Leandro had been so convinced that Molly wouldn’t fall pregnant? She rather thought it did.
‘Come and meet Fernando,’ Julieta urged, tugging at her elbow. ‘He’s younger and more fun.’
Fernando Santos was the estate manager and a handsome athletic young man in his late twenties. Julieta got very giggly and juvenile with him and the couple exchanged jokes, until Doña Maria sternly beckoned her daughter back to her side from the other side of the room.
‘Are you the person I should ask if there is a vacant shed I could use to house a pottery kiln?’ Molly enquired hopefully, glancing in Leandro’s direction and wondering why her husband was staring fixedly at her just at that moment.
‘Yes, Your Excellency. There may well be a suitable building in the old farmyard,’ Fernando replied. ‘We had to build new sheds for the agricultural machinery and several are now vacant.’
‘Call me Molly,’ Molly suggested. A sunny smile of satisfaction wreathed her animated features at the knowledge that there was no longer a day job preventing her from fulfilling her artistic ambitions and doing what she really wanted to do with her time.
Brown eyes resting admiringly on her vivacious face, Fernando gave her an apologetic look. ‘That would cause offence to your new family. You’re the duke’s wife and the traditional formalities are carefully upheld on the estate.’
‘It’s going to take some getting used to,’ Molly sighed.
‘But I can speak for the whole staff when I tell you that we are all pleased that His Excellency has remarried,’ the young Spaniard told her warmly.
Leandro joined them at that point and Fernando became conspicuously less chatty. Leandro seemed very cool and distant. Following a conversation about the olive groves, carried out in English apparently for her benefit, Leandro walked her out onto the spacious landing. Molly glanced up at him and then stiffened, forewarned by the black ice chill of his dark gaze and the forbidding tension of his lean, powerful face that something was wrong.
‘Keep your distance from Fernando Santos,’ Leandro breathed with cutting cool. ‘Although he is an exemplary employee, he has a sleazy reputation with women and it will do you no good to be seen to enjoy his company to such an extent.’
Thoroughly taken aback by that unexpected rebuke, Molly said, ‘What on earth are you trying to suggest?’
‘That you don’t flirt with him and do maintain a formal distance with him when you meet.’
Furious resentment snaked through Molly’s tense figure. ‘I wasn’t flirting. For goodness’ sake, we were only talking for a few minutes,’ she protested in a vehement undertone. ‘I didn’t have you picked as the jealous type, but thanks for the warning!’
Equally taken aback by that wrathful retaliation, Leandro froze. Aggrieved gold flashed into his intent gaze. ‘I have never been jealous in my life,’ he asserted with freezing dignity. ‘But your behaviour was attracting attention-’
‘On my wedding day? When I’m carrying your child? Is it everyone round here who’s crazy or just you?’ Molly raised a disbelieving brow and stalked away from him in high dudgeon.
A shudder of steely self-restraint raked through Leandro’s big, powerful frame. She was a tiny figure in a bright dress that clung to her firm, rounded curves at breast and hip and skimmed slender thighs that led down into flawless legs. His teeth gritted. He resisted the urge to drag her back and make her listen to him. She liked male company and men liked her. He knew how close she was to Jez Andrews. Her best friend was a man, not a woman, and he was not comfortable with that fact. Another man might easily misinterpret her easy smiles and friendliness as an invitation. She also seemed blissfully unaware of how very sexy she was even in that polka-dot dress, which looked as though it would be more at home on a beach…