The rooms were almost empty by the time Molly had finished helping to load the catering van. Putting on her coat, she walked back round to the front of the house on her way to where she had parked her car. It was a surprise to find the Spanish banker standing out on the pavement. It was a freezing cold wintry night and he had no coat on over his suit. Wind was whistling down the street and he looked chilled to the marrow.
‘Didn’t your taxi come yet?’ she asked before she could think better of taking notice of him.
‘Apparently they’re very busy tonight. I don’t think I have ever been so cold in my life. How do you bear this climate?’ Leandro enquired between gritted white teeth.
‘Choice didn’t come into it.’ Molly thought what a miserable evening he had had and sympathy softened her stiff stance and expression. ‘Look, I would offer you a lift home but I don’t want to give you the wrong idea-’
‘How would I get the wrong idea?’ Leandro cut in, knowing it was going to be a very long time, if ever, before he went out again without his chauffeur and limousine to transport him around. It had not occurred to him until it was too late that he could not possibly drive himself home when he had had several drinks.
Molly tilted her chin, luminous green eyes proffering a challenge. ‘I’m not stalking you or in any way expressing a personal interest in you,’ she spelt out with scrupulous care.
Leandro studied her with sudden intense amusement because what was in his mind was the exact opposite-he was thinking that if he just let her walk away he would never see her again. Never. There was just one problem: Leandro was discovering that he was not prepared to accept that eventuality. ‘I know you’re not stalking me. I’ll take a lift,’ he murmured softly.
‘I’ll get my car.’ Having crossed the road, Molly went round the corner and unlocked and climbed into her ancient Mini. She was already asking herself what had come over her, why she hadn’t just walked on past and left him to freeze. She hadn’t even asked where he lived and suspected that it would most probably be well out of her way.
The appearance of the vibrant pink car initially took Leandro aback. It was as quirky and full of personality as he suspected its owner was. He attempted to get in, realised that he had to shift the seat back to accommodate his long legs and did so before folding his lean, powerful length into the tight space. ‘You like pink,’ he remarked.
‘It’s an easy colour to spot in a car park. Where do you live?’
His address was as exclusive and expensive as she believed he was, but it was comparatively close to the part of town they were in. ‘How did you get to the exhibition tonight?’ she prompted.
‘By car, but I’ve drunk too much to drive,’ Leandro stated.
‘Is that why you said you weren’t yourself earlier?’ Molly queried, shooting him a curious look as she stopped at a set of traffic lights. He turned his handsome dark head to look at her and she marvelled at the hot gold colour his dark brooding eyes acquired in stronger light.
‘No. Today was the anniversary of my wife’s death a year ago. I’ve been unsettled all week,’ Leandro imparted, and immediately wondered why he was admitting something so personal to her, since it was not at all like him.
For a split second, Molly froze, and then her natural warmth and sympathy took charge of her response. She reached across and squeezed his hand. ‘I’m so sorry,’ she said sincerely. ‘Was she ill?’
Startled by that affectionate gesture of support, Leandro had stiffened. ‘No, she crashed her car. My fault. We had an…exchange of words before she went out,’ he said tautly.
An exchange of words? Did he mean they’d had a row? ‘Of course it wasn’t your fault,’ Molly told him with firm conviction. ‘You shouldn’t be blaming yourself. Unless you were physically behind the wheel, it was a tragic accident and it’s not healthy to think of it any other way.’
Her outspoken candour and practicality were a refreshing change when compared to the majority of people, who carefully avoided making any reference to the thorny subject of Aloise’s sudden death. Perhaps it was true that it was easier to talk to strangers, Leandro mused reflectively, for he was unable to recall any other occasion when he had spontaneously abandoned his reserve to confide in anyone else.
He was a widower, Molly thought ruefully. She didn’t know how she felt about that, only that it was an unexpected fact. ‘You feel guilty about kissing me as well, don’t you?’ she guessed.
His classic bronzed profile went rigid at that reminder. She had hit a bullseye. Suddenly her candour was unwelcome and gauche in the extreme. ‘I don’t think we need to discuss that,’ he drawled in a tone of finality.