‘Molly and I both grew up without a silver spoon in our mouths.’ Nikolai intoned that reminder flatly. ‘What do you think she has in common with a duke who went to a British public school?’
‘He’s really not a snob,’ Molly mumbled helplessly in Leandro’s favour.
‘They will soon have a child in common.’ Lysander dealt his brother-in-law an impatient glance. ‘And that child is a good enough reason for Molly to take her time over deciding whether or not she wants a divorce.’
Divorce! That very word struck horror into Molly’s bones. Divorce would be so final. She would never see Leandro again unless he came to visit their child and she did not think she could bear the prospect of that. That conviction grew on her while she played with her brothers’ children that evening. Surely when she loved Leandro so much it made sense to give their marriage one more chance? Soon after reaching that conclusion, she told Abbey that she was going over to Leandro’s apartment to see him.
One of Nikolai’s security team tagged her all the way to the door and it was a relief to step inside. Leandro focused on her with frowning force, her appearance clearly coming as a surprise to him. The smell of whiskey clinging to him took her by surprise for Leandro rarely drank. In addition, he was not his usual perfectly groomed self. His tie was missing, his jacket crumpled and he badly needed a shave.
‘Molly?’ he queried, as if he couldn’t quite accept the evidence of his own eyes.
Molly leant back against the door and walked past him into the airy lounge where a half-empty whisky bottle and a single glass sat beside an untouched meal. ‘I have a proposition to put to you,’ she stated.
Leandro gave her an enquiring look, which would have been more impressive had his eyes been in focus and had he contrived to walk in a straight line. In actuality he managed neither, for her abstemious husband was anything but sober. ‘Go ahead.’
‘A make-or-break holiday of at least three weeks for just the two of us, to see if we can make something of this marriage,’ Molly murmured, wondering why he was drinking alone and worrying about it.
‘I can do that!’ Leandro declared instantly.
‘Leandro…in Spain you couldn’t do one night at home with me, so don’t underestimate what you’d be signing up for,’ she sighed.
His lean, strong features set into purposeful strong lines. ‘I’ll try anything that means I don’t lose you and the baby, mi preciosa.’
Her eyes shone with tears, for she realised that he had done some serious thinking and was finally recognising what the breakdown of their marriage would ultimately cost him. Naturally he didn’t want to lose the chance to bring up the child he had married her to support. ‘And no more secrets. I know you’re not the sort of guy who’s in touch with his feelings, but you still have them…don’t you?’
Leandro studied her, poised there in a bright red raincoat with her dark curly head tilted to one side like a little inquisitive bird, and snatched in a ragged breath. ‘Sì.’
‘So that’s the deal: long holiday, no secrets, major effort on all fronts from you,’ Molly proffered anxiously.
‘Do you want to go now?’ Leandro enquired hopefully.
‘No, I think you should sleep off the whisky first,’ Molly said wryly. ‘What about tomorrow afternoon? Could you hire a villa somewhere?’
‘It’s done. It will be the holiday of a lifetime,’ Leandro swore…
THE Casa Limone sat in a breathtaking Tuscan landscape of woods and hills. A Renaissance jewel with ancient walls and a tower, the former farmhouse enjoyed a contrastingly cool and contemporary interior. Surrounded by olive groves, vines and rolling fields speckled with glorious wild flowers, the house lay at the foot of a long lane in a sunlit glade of perfect peace and seclusion.
Molly was surprised when Leandro admitted that it was only one of the houses he had bought as an investment over the years and put in the charge of a rental agency. He had never mentioned his extensive property portfolio to her before. A tense expression suddenly gripped her small face as she stepped out of the four-wheel drive they had picked up at the airport. ‘Did you ever bring her here? Aloise, I mean?’ she clarified, hating herself for asking, but, all the same, desperately needing to know.
‘No.’ As if realising that that one defensive word was insufficient, Leandro added, ‘She preferred the city.’
‘Oh…’ Registering that she had got a whole sentence dug out of him on that controversial issue, Molly didn’t waste time about going in for the kill. ‘Was it really a perfect marriage?’