‘Wh...what sort of signals?’ she murmured, getting to her feet as well.
‘All the rows, of course. Claire was never the sort of person to start an argument—she was far too quiet. I should have realised that something was going on and made her tell me what it was, but I was too preoccupied with my job and with making a good impression.’
‘But that’s ridiculous! You had no way of knowing that she was pregnant unless she chose to tell you. I mean, why did she wait so long? Surely it would have been far more in character for her to tell you the moment she suspected that she might be having a baby?’
‘She probably would have done if I hadn’t been so completely wrapped up in my work.’ He gave her a grim smile. ‘I was far too busy to find the time to sit down and talk to her.’
‘She must have been busy too,’ Molly pointed out. ‘You said that you were both trying to make a go of your careers.’
‘Yes. But it doesn’t negate what I did or, rather, what I didn’t do. I wasn’t there when Claire needed me and because of that she and the baby died.’ His voice broke. ‘And I will have to live with that every day of my life.’
Molly acted instinctively then. Perhaps if she had been thinking clearly she wouldn’t have done what she did but every instinct she possessed was urging her to comfort him. Reaching out, she drew him into her arms and held him, simply held him, hoping that he might take comfort from the closeness of another human being. She had never suspected that Sean—live-for-the-moment Sean—was carrying such a burden around with him, but somehow she had to make him understand that he wasn’t to blame for what had happened.
If she could.
The thought that he might live out the rest of his days blaming himself for the tragedy brought a rush of tears to her eyes. Molly tried to hold them back but more kept on coming, pouring down her face in a relentless torrent. She realised all of a sudden that she wasn’t crying only for him but for herself as well. Sean must have loved Claire so very much, far more than he could ever have loved her, and it was almost too painful to bear to know that she could never have matched the other woman in his affections.
‘Molly?’ She felt him go still before he slowly set her away from him. Bending, he looked into her face. ‘You’re crying.’
‘Take no notice.’ She sniffed loudly, hunting in her pocket for a tissue and typically not finding one. She couldn’t bear it if he guessed just how devastated she felt, couldn’t add to his burden in any way. It wasn’t Sean’s fault that his heart belonged to another woman.
‘Here.’ Sean plucked a tissue from the box on the coffee table but, instead of handing it to her, he tipped up her face and gently wiped away her tears. Tossing the soggy tissue into the waste bin, he smiled at her. ‘Better now?’
‘Yes. Thank you.’ She went to move away but his hands fastened lightly around the top of her arms and held her fast.
‘I’m sorry, Molly. I never meant to upset you like this.’
‘I know. It’s just that I can’t bear to think of you blaming yourself when there’s no need,’ she said, deliberately blanking out any thoughts about how she felt. It was Sean who needed consoling, not her.
‘Isn’t there?’ He sighed as he drew her into his arms and held her against him. ‘I wish I could believe that.’
‘Then you must try harder,’ she said fiercely. She pulled back and glared at him, determined to make him see sense. ‘It was an accident, Sean. A tragic accident, but you weren’t to blame!’
‘Oh, Molly, I want to believe you. Really I do.’
He drew her to him once more, planting a gentle kiss on her cheek. It was meant to be no more than a token, a simple expression of gratitude for her support, and it might have remained that way too if she hadn’t chosen that precise moment to turn her head. Molly froze when she felt his lips glide from her cheek and come to rest at the corner of her mouth. She knew that she should do something to stop what was happening, but it was as though her body was suddenly refusing to obey her. When his lips started to move again, but deliberately this time, she could only stand there, motionless.
His mouth found hers and she heard him sigh, felt the warm expulsion of his breath on her lips, and it was that which broke the spell. However, if she’d hoped that it would bring her to her senses she was mistaken. Her lips seemed to possess a will of their own as they clung to his, eagerly inviting him to continue. And he did.