‘Is that you actually admitting that you might be wrong about something?’
‘No, that’s you misinterpreting me,’ Leandro quipped without skipping a beat.
Knots of guests in elegant dinner jackets and exquisite
gowns and glittering jewellery drifted into the beautifully decorated ballroom to greet them. As the evening wore on Molly’s head swam with the sheer number of different names and faces she tried to match. She met Leandro’s neighbours, friends and loads of other bankers. It was a warm evening and the crush of people and the noise of the music and the chattering voices combined in a suffocating wave that made her feel slightly nauseous and dizzy. She drifted over to the doors that stood open onto the terrace to allow fresh air to filter in. Just as she was hanging back from joining Leandro, who was patently talking business with a group of like-minded serious men, Julieta approached her. Looping her arm round Molly’s to draw her into a girlie aside, Julieta whispered, ‘Can I trust you with a secret?’
‘If you want to,’ Molly responded a little uncertainly.
‘I’ve been seeing Fernando Santos for weeks,’ Leandro’s youngest sister confided in an explosive rush. ‘I’m crazy about him!’
‘My goodness…’ Molly was taken aback by that confession and not quite sure she wanted the responsibility of it. It had not taken her long to work out that, while Julieta was warm-hearted and likeable, she was also impulsive and immature for a girl of twenty-one.
Julieta gave her a warning look. ‘If the truth were to come out, my family would break us up and Fernando would lose his job, so please don’t tell anyone.’
Molly nodded and hoped that Leandro was wrong in his conviction that the handsome estate manager was a womaniser. More streetwise than the Spanish girl had ever had to be, Molly paid more heed to Fernando when he came over to speak to her. He startled her by bowing over her hand and kissing it. That gesture along with his ready smile and conversation showed him to be a man who was very much at home in female company and prided himself on the fact.
‘I’ve identified a couple of buildings that might be suitable for your purpose, Your Excellency. Would you prefer me to discuss this with your husband?’ he asked.
‘No, I’ll deal with it. My husband is a busy man,’ Molly countered.
‘I’ll let you know, then, when the sheds are ready for inspection,’ Fernando told her, tensing as Julieta sent him a flirtatious smile and then looking away with an unease that did not bode well for the relationship. Perhaps he should have thought of the risks before getting involved, Molly thought, all her concern reserved for Julieta, whom she could see was in deep enough to get badly hurt. Perspiration beading her short upper lip, Molly suddenly sucked in a deep breath, striving to counter the sickening light-headed sensation overcoming her.
‘Are you feeling all right?’ Fernando asked Molly abruptly. ‘You’ve turned very pale.’
‘I’m fine,’ Molly lied, hurriedly turning away to find somewhere to sit down. But that quick movement was too much and a wave of dizziness drenched her in a cold sweat of discomfort. With a gasp, she swayed and began to fall. A split second before she hit the floor with a crash, someone grabbed her.
When she recovered consciousness, she was in another room and Leandro was standing over her where she lay on a sofa and studying her with stark concern etched in his lean bronzed features. A middle-aged stranger was taking her pulse and viewing her with a frown while Leandro introduced him as the family doctor, Edmundo Mendoza.
‘You should be taking more rest at this time, Your Excellency,’ he censured.
‘I just felt dizzy. It was so warm and airless.’
‘You’re not used to the climate yet and in a few short weeks it will be much warmer,’ Dr Mendoza warned her. ‘Give yourself time to acclimatise.’
‘I should have ensured that you sat down,’ Leandro groaned.
‘I was just a little faint,’ Molly said dismissively.
‘But suppose that faint had occurred on the stairs,’ the doctor urged, clearly a man who liked to visualise worst-case scenarios.
‘You should rest now. Our guests will understand,’ Leandro declared.
‘I don’t need to be treated like an invalid,’ Molly muttered while she wondered if absolutely everybody present was already aware that she was a pregnant bride. She cringed at the idea.
Leandro, all macho-managing-male at that instant, scooped her up off the sofa. ‘What were you talking about with Santos? At first I thought he had said something to upset you when you turned away from him. I was coming to join you and just got there in time to catch you before you hit the floor-’