But Molly was convinced she had found the culprit and saw no point in further dispute. Having decided to reject her son’s bride sight unseen, Doña Maria was all the more bitter for being forced to accept her as a daughter-in-law.

‘I would advise you not to make false allegations against me,’ the older woman continued. ‘Leandro would never forgive you.’

Ten minutes later, comfortably enclosed in a chauffeur-driven limousine with Julieta, Molly was considering the likely outcome of tackling Leandro about her mother-in-law. Of course, how could she prove anything? She had no documentary evidence to show and no witnesses of what had been said to her. And did she really need to run to Leandro to tell tales barely thirty-six hours into their marriage? Surely she could cope better than that? The love of his life, however, had a fine ring to it and she knew it would be a long time, if ever, before she forgot that description of Aloise.

‘Was your mother very fond of Aloise?’ Molly asked Leandro’s sister.

The pretty brunette flushed and failed to meet her eyes. ‘Mama knew Aloise when she was a child. We all did. She lived only a few miles away and our families were close. Her death shattered us all. The accident was very sudden and truly tragic. Aloise had so much to live for. Everyone admired her.’

By the sound of it, Leandro had selected the perfect wife. A childhood friend and neighbour, popular with his family and with whom he had shared a great deal more than he could ever share with Molly. She was also willing to bet that he had taken the love of his life away on a honeymoon.

The dress was a vibrant emerald green that gave her skin a glow of creamy perfection and highlighted her bright eyes. The glistening fabric shaped her body from bust to hip and flared out into a short skirt.

‘You will turn every head in the room, gatita,’ Leandro forecast from behind her.

Surprise made Molly jump and she spun round from her inspection of the mirror. ‘I didn’t know you were back.’

‘I’m sorry I missed dinner. Work had piled up while I was in London. I won’t be long. All I have to do is shower and change.’ Brilliant dark golden eyes rested on her and her tummy flipped a somersault and her mouth ran dry. Sleek and dark in an elegant business suit with his black hair slightly ruffled and a blue-black shadow of stubble defining his hard, handsome jaw line, he looked utterly spectacular to her appreciative gaze. ‘But I thought you might want to wear these this evening…’

He extended a jewellery case.

Molly lifted the lid to reveal a magnificent necklace composed of perfectly matched large lustrous pearls and matching drop earrings. ‘These are amazing.’

‘There’s a tremendous collection of jewellery in the safe, all of which is now yours to wear.’

Molly lifted out the pearl necklace. He helped her attach the diamond-studded clasp, his fingertips brushing the nape of her neck. She put on the earrings. Worn together, the set looked incredibly opulent. ‘How old are the pieces?’

‘Turn of the last century, given on the occasion of my great-grandfather’s birth…

‘And this is from me…’ Leandro extended a much smaller box.

Her heart beating very fast, Molly opened it and studied the glittering diamond ring with stunned eyes. ‘It’s gorgeous.’

Leandro extracted the ring and reached for her hand to slide the ring onto the same finger as her wedding band. ‘We missed out on the usual steps, querida.’

‘I love it.’ And when she collided with his shimmering dark eyes she suspected that some day she might well start loving him too, for sometimes he could do or say something that cut right to the heart of her concerns and touched her deep. The night they had met he had told her that she made him feel more alive than he had felt in years and he had called that a cause for celebration. In the same way the giving of the equivalent of an engagement ring and the recognition that their relationship had skipped several important stages made her eyes prickle with stinging tears of appreciation. ‘I really love it…’

‘I’d better get in that shower.’ Leandro strode back to the door between their bedrooms and a moment later he was gone.

She admired her new collection of jewellery and enjoyed the fact that he obviously wanted her to be able to hold her own amongst the other women at the party.

‘So how long have the separate bedrooms for husband and wife been operating?’ Molly enquired when they were descending the magnificent staircase together.

Leandro dealt her a look of surprise. ‘Centuries.’

Molly leant closer and whispered huskily, ‘Time for a change.’

The familiar citrus-fresh scent of her hair flared his nostrils and heated his appreciative dark gaze. ‘You could be right, querida.’

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