She left all her jewellery behind and even removed her rings to leave them lying on the dressing table. After a light lunch served in her room, she went for a nap from which she was wakened by Nikolai’s call. Having dressed again, she rang for a member of staff to carry down her cases. Basilio was at the foot of the staircase, wringing his hands. She thought painfully of how much Leandro would loathe the attention that the breakdown of their marriage would create. Her baby kicked and she tensed, wondering guiltily if her child could somehow feel her emotional turmoil.
Doña Maria appeared in the doorway of the salon. The older woman looked incredibly smug, but Molly couldn’t have cared less, for she could already hear the noisy approach of a helicopter flying in low. That was the exact moment that what she was doing really sank in on her, not the best time for her to realise that she had fallen in love with Leandro when she was in the midst of wondering how he had survived his cold and severe mother’s upbringing. But she didn’t need to wonder, did she? Leandro had developed self-reliance and rigid self-discipline at a very early age while learning to hide and suppress his emotions.
Someone rapped noisily on the front door. Basilio opened it. Molly saw a very tall and powerfully built man with dark hair striding towards the entrance while bodyguards fanned out around him. In the background sat a helicopter with Arlov Industries written across the tail.
‘Molly?’ he queried with a wide measuring appraisal, and then he flung back his handsome head and laughed, impervious to Doña Maria’s goggling stare at him, his men and his helicopter. ‘I don’t believe it-you’re even smaller than Ophelia!’
He snapped his fingers and one of his bodyguards hurried forward to lift her luggage. She walked out into the sunshine and part of her screamed to stay. Her nerves were stretched tight as piano wires.
‘You’re not sure about doing this, are you?’ her companion divined with disturbing ease.
‘I don’t think I’ve any other option right now.’
Nikolai Arlov paused in his stride and rested his shrewd gaze on her troubled face. ‘As a husband, I should warn you that your Spanish duke won’t forgive this move in a hurry.’
Molly shrugged a feisty shoulder while she thought of all the evenings that had stretched into eternity as she had spent them alone. ‘I’ll survive,’ she replied with determination.
‘So, is this an I’m-leaving-you-for-ever or I-want-you-to-sit-up-and-take-notice walkout?’ Nikolai enquired lazily.
Molly registered that her big brother knew a lot about women. ‘The jury’s still out on that one.’
‘Because he went to Geneva? But that was work,’ Nikolai pointed out, as if putting business first was a perfectly understandable act.
Sudden tears burned at the backs of her eyes. Too much was happening all at once. Her chin tilting, she blinked rapidly. She had got by before Leandro and she would get by after him just as well. But she still had to learn how to want to do that, she acknowledged heavily. The helicopter took off and she watched the castillo ebbing from view and wondered just when she would see Leandro again and whether or not lawyers would be present at the occasion.
LEANDRO studied his bruised knuckles with little sense of satisfaction. He had visited Santos on the way to the airport and had found the estate manager in the act of loading up his car, apparently already aware that his secret was out. A hopeless opponent, Santos had mumbled apologies and ducked a fight. How could Molly have been attracted to a man with all the backbone of a worm?
Flying out to Geneva, regardless of events, had proved a mistake. His concentration had evaporated as increasingly nightmarish images of Molly in another man’s bed had interrupted his usual rational thinking processes. He had cut his meetings short to fly home. Once there, he had enjoyed an exchange of opinions with his mother that had led to her fuming departure within the space of an hour. Only then had he had the privacy to walk up to Molly’s abandoned bedroom.
Her exit note was a tangled tale of the new and lately rediscovered family relationships that had led to her flight in Nikolai Arlov’s helicopter. Nikolai Arlov, Leandro reflected heavily. Her brother was a Russian billionaire. But the emptiness of the room had affected Leandro much more than the revelations on paper. Her rings lay on the dressing table in rejection of their marriage. He could picture her yanking them off, green eyes blazing with anger and defiance. He could still see the indent of her tiny body on the bedspread where she had lain down. The imagery paralysed him and his fists clenched in a bitter battle with the churning emotions he had refused to acknowledge throughout the day.