Her mobile phone rang while she was at a fashionable tapas bar with Julieta and her friends. It was Leandro. ‘Why didn’t you tell me you were going out?’
‘I didn’t think you’d notice I was missing,’ Molly heard herself reply while she smoothed down the skirt of her little black dress, which did a marvellous job of skimming her pregnant tummy.
‘If you tell me where you are, I’ll come and join you.’
Molly was aware that Fernando would be showing up at some stage of the evening and she knew she couldn’t possibly let Leandro meet up with his sister’s friends. ‘No, thanks.’
‘You’re my wife,’ Leandro growled.
‘I know. Sometimes-like now-the wedding ring feels like a choke chain,’ Molly told him in an undertone of helpless complaint. ‘I had a lot more fun when I was single. Look, I’ll see you tomorrow.’
‘Tomorrow? Where are you spending the night?’ Leandro raked down the line, all pretence of cool suddenly ditched.
Molly smiled wickedly, enjoying the sensation of having surprised him. ‘With your sister, of course. Please don’t spoil her birthday.’
But mysteriously her bubble of enjoyment began to ebb at that point. Perhaps it was the challenge of being the only sober person in the party. Perhaps it was because, although she adored being out in company, it was already well after midnight and she was getting sleepier by the minute. Their destination was an exclusive hip club popular with the celebrity set and Fernando met up with them before they went in. A camera flash alerted Molly to the presence of the paparazzi and she was relieved to escape into the luxurious interior and sit down to watch the extravagant and entertaining floor-show.
Time began to telescope after that. She marvelled at the irony that she sat in the castillo most days and nights missing Leandro and that now when she’d finally got out, she was still missing him. She watched Fernando Santos conduct a very sly flirtation with one of Julieta’s friends and decided that she didn’t like him at all. Julieta was obviously in love, but Molly suspected that Fernando might only be with his employer’s sister because she was an heiress. The music and the chatter coalesced into a droning barrage of sound and Molly’s drowsiness began to gain ground on her. She fought her exhaustion because she could see that Julieta was having a great time and she was determined not to be a party-pooper. She must have dozed off at some stage, because when she stirred again she found herself outside in the night air and she only fully woke up inside the car. There were loud voices all around her and when she opened her eyes she was almost blinded by camera flashes.
‘What happened…where are we going?’ Molly pulled herself up into a sitting position and addressed Julieta, who was wrapped round Fernando like a vine.
‘Home. Go back to sleep,’ Julieta advised, not unkindly.
Woolly-minded and with a body that felt heavy and clumsy, Molly stripped where she stood in Julieta’s guest room and slept almost the same minute that her head hit the pillow. The next morning, the buzz of her mobile phone startled her and she fumbled in her bag and dug it out. Whoops, she thought in consternation even before she answered it, because there were ten missed calls listed on it. ‘Molly?’ a female voice exclaimed. ‘Is that Molly?’
‘Yes, who is this?’ But Molly’s heart was thumping with excitement because, although she couldn’t quite believe it, she was convinced she already knew who that voice belonged to.
‘Ophelia…don’t you remember my voice?’ her sister cried, audibly anxious. ‘I wish you weren’t in Spain. I want to see you right now, put my arms round you and hug you!’
And Molly burst into floods of tears and that was that. She had found her sister. Within the space of a minute the two women were catching up and soon Molly, who had never been a fan of polite pretences, found herself admitting that Leandro had only married her because she had fallen pregnant.
‘You don’t sound very happy,’ Ophelia remarked worriedly.
‘I’m not,’ Molly said ruefully, but didn’t add that, despite this fact, she still could not imagine living without a regular fix of her workaholic husband, because that sounded very wet and wimpy.
She was stunned when Ophelia told her that they had an older half-brother of Russian extraction called Nikolai Arlov. It was wonderful for her to learn that both her siblings had been trying really hard to trace her for several years. Ophelia was eager to satisfy Molly’s curiosity about Nikolai, her children and her husband, Lysander Metaxis. Her thoughts buzzing at the dizzy awareness that she did have a family of her own, after all, Molly was able to laugh out loud with pleasure when she discovered that Haddock the parrot was still alive.