‘I think you should tell Leandro to take a running jump and come home to London,’ Jez had told Molly on the phone the night before. ‘You’re bored, you’re lonely and you’re in a foreign country. By the sounds of it, you see so little of your healthy duke that you might as well move back here. He could visit the kid when he comes over on business. At least you’d have a life in London.’
‘I’ve never been a quitter. I don’t want a divorce and a broken home for my child,’ she argued vehemently. ‘Marriage is for the long haul.’
‘Your long haul, not his. You seem to be the one making all the sacrifices,’ her best friend opined.
And wasn’t that the truth? Molly thought ruefully. Marriage appeared to have made very little impression on either Leandro’s schedule or his attitude to her. Leandro was strong, arrogant and reserved. She loved his strength, but hated being kept at arm’s length. He shut her out and she desperately wanted to be let in so that she could get close to him somewhere other than in the bedroom. She had nobody but Julieta to talk to, and during the week Leandro’s sister lived in Seville where she was studying fashion design. While Molly’s regular Spanish lessons with a local teacher had led to a steady improvement in her grasp of the language, it was still an uphill challenge for her to have a decent chat with anyone. At least, however, she could now make herself understood with the castle staff. For the first couple of months, while she was unable to express the most basic requests, she had felt very inadequate and isolated.
Furthermore, her mother-in-law, far from basing herself as promised in Seville, remained firmly in residence below the same roof. Doña Maria froze Molly out in company and made little acid comments and digs under cover of polite conversation. That was one reason why Molly spent the greater part of her day in her studio, which Leandro had yet to even visit. He had promised to come but never quite made it. In much the same way he had not found the time to take any interest in the nursery being decorated for their unborn child.
A knock on the door shot Molly back to the present and she spun round to see Julieta, gorgeous in white shorts and T-shirt, smiling hopefully across the studio at her.
‘It’s my birthday tomorrow,’ Julieta reminded her. ‘Will you come up to town and go clubbing with me and my friends in the evening? You can stay the night at my place.’
It was on the tip of Molly’s tongue to say no because she knew that Leandro would not approve. But then when did Leandro ever take her out anywhere? She was married to a workaholic too busy to waste his precious time entertaining his wife. Sudden defiance blazed through Molly. Since when had she been the sort of girl who sat home and did as she was told? On that thought, she accepted the invitation and Julieta was ecstatic at the prospect of introducing Molly to all her friends, for the two women had formed an increasingly close friendship, united by the truth that neither of them was capable of winning Doña Maria’s approval. Nothing poor Julieta wore or indeed did got her critical mother’s vote of confidence.
Late afternoon, Molly drove back to the castillo in one of the estate Land Rovers that she had acquired for her own use. Basilio knew her routine and he was stationed at the side door in the garden she always used to avoid her mother-in-law, who sat in the grand salon off the hall at that time of day. He swept open the door and bowed low with a throbbing air of exaggerated respect that very nearly provoked Molly into giggles.
‘Muchas gracias, Basilio,’ she said punctiliously, touched by his unfailing efforts to give her the aristocratic airs she so conspicuously lacked.
She grabbed a magazine from the pile in her bedroom and went off to luxuriate in a long bath. Anticipation at the prospect of soon enjoying lively company had brightened her eyes. She was already planning to get her hair and nails done for her night out on the town the following day. She wondered what she would wear, reflecting that pregnant clubbers weren’t exactly cool or fashionable, and mentally flipped through her extensive wardrobe for an outfit that would magically conceal her rotund contours. So Leandro wouldn’t like it. Well, Leandro would have to roll with the punches.
In the act of flipping through the glossy fashion magazine for something to catch her interest, Molly froze at the fleeting glimpse of a woman’s face. Sitting up in an abrupt movement, displaced water swilling noisily all around her, Molly flipped back frantically through the issue to find the relevant page while struggling to keep it dry at the same time.
Her heart skipped a beat when she finally relocated the photograph of a very beautiful blonde woman standing in a walled garden full of colourful flowers. It was her sister, Ophelia, she was sure it was! Barely able to breathe for excitement, Molly settled back to read the article. Ophelia was married now-well why not? Her sister was seven years older and a mother as well, Molly registered in growing astonishment. My goodness, Ophelia had already had three kids by a Greek businessman called Lysander Metaxis! Now why did that surname ring a familiar bell with her? Ophelia, who now evidently ran a plant nursery, had opened her home and garden in aid of a children’s charity. Molly turned a page and stared fixedly at the picture of Madrigal Court. Her recognition of the lovely old Tudor house sent a cold shiver down her spine, rousing as it did unhappy memories.