Molly went pink, furious that Nikolai had chosen to make such decisions on her behalf and resenting his interference in her marriage. ‘He shouldn’t have done that, but he was probably trying to protect me.’

‘I owe you a sincere apology for my misconceptions about your relationship with Fernando Santos,’ Leandro delivered gravely, his striking dark golden eyes welded to hers. ‘Julieta told me the truth.’


‘Oh…’ Off-balanced by his immediate apology, Molly couldn’t concentrate. ‘I haven’t spoken to her since I left. Is she all right?’

‘She was very upset about what happened between us and she’s broken up with Santos, after finding out that she wasn’t the only woman in his life. I think that in the circumstances you should have told me the truth.’

Molly drew herself up to her full insignificant height and breathed in deep. ‘You wouldn’t have believed me! From the first moment you saw Fernando talking to me, you were suspicious of us-’

‘Dios mio, I was jealous,’ Leandro admitted between gritted teeth. ‘I immediately saw his eagerness to impress you, his admiration for you.’

‘For me, and I don’t know how many other women. Fernando is a self-satisfied flirt,’ Molly cut in, ever so slightly mollified by that unexpected confession of jealousy. ‘I thought you didn’t get jealous.’

His incredible cheekbones tensed. ‘I believed that was the truth when I said it to you. I didn’t recognise what a hold jealousy had got on my mind, so that I misinterpreted everything that happened to fit my deepest…er…fears.’ His accented drawl dropped in level as he fitted in that last revealing word, low and quick. ‘Of course you were correct when you said that I should have trusted you. But you’re a very beautiful, sensual young woman and why should other men not be knocked out by you as I was?’

Her towel was slipping, revealing an eye-catching depth of cleavage. Conscious of his gaze dropping to the cups struggling to restrain her bountiful breasts, Molly reddened and hoisted her towel. Even so, her treacherous body was already reacting to that interest with a hot pulse low in her pelvis.

‘How could you just walk out on our marriage?’ Leandro demanded.

‘Easily. I was the only person making an effort in our relationship. You were never there and you made me live with your mother, who absolutely hated me!’

‘I wasn’t aware how deep her dislike of you was until she voiced certain opinions to me after you had gone. She’s returned to her home in Seville and is now aware that she is not welcome at the castillo unless she can treat you with the respect that is your right as my wife. Why did I have to wait for my mother to lose her temper to find out how she was treating you? Why didn’t you just tell me?’

It was a fair question, Molly acknowledged. ‘I didn’t know whose side you would take and I didn’t want to put you in that position. I honestly did believe that sooner or later Doña Maria would get tired of needling me and just accept me.’

‘But you deserved better than that in your own home. Naturally I would have taken your side. I have no illusions about what my mother can be like-’

‘I think she was behind the financial offer that was made to me before I married you,’ Molly said abruptly.

‘What financial offer?’

Molly gave him the details. He was staggered, genuinely staggered, when she shared the content of that meeting. He asked her to name the legal firm concerned and a flash of recognition lit his hard gaze. ‘That firm did work for the estate at one time. It is very likely that my mother was behind that offer. I had no idea that she would go to such extremes or even that she would dare to interfere in my life to that extent-’

‘She doesn’t think I’m good enough for you.’

His anger was palpable and his strong jaw line clenched. ‘Dios mio, you turned down two million pounds to marry me?’

‘Yeah…I’d have been wiser grabbing the cash and running for the hills, wouldn’t I?’ she quipped in a wry allusion to the current state of their relationship.

Leandro took a sudden step forward, his spectacular dark golden gaze narrowed and intent. ‘I am very grateful that you didn’t and that you went through with our marriage. I only wish I had done more with the opportunity.’

‘No, I don’t think you do,’ Molly contradicted with a rueful grimace. ‘You didn’t want any more than a shallow show of a marriage for the baby’s sake, but, unfortunately, I’m not as detached as you are. I couldn’t live like that for the rest of my days.’

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