He raised his head and his eyes were so dark that they appeared almost black as he looked at her. ‘I know I shouldn’t be doing this but I can’t help myself,’ he said hoarsely. ‘Tell me to stop, Molly, if it isn’t what you want.’
Molly bit her lip, unsure of what she wanted. Oh, she didn’t want him to stop—that was a given. But was it wise to let this go any further, to risk falling under his spell all over again? He had hurt her so badly and she didn’t think that she could go back to that dark place again. But if she called a halt then would she regret it, always wish that she had taken the risk in the hope that it might bring her closure?
‘I don’t know what I want, Sean. Part of me is terrified at the thought of feeling like I did two years ago. I can’t go back there. I don’t think I could bear it.’
‘Oh, sweetheart, don’t! Please don’t upset yourself because I behaved like such a crass idiot.’ He tipped up her chin and kissed her lightly on the mouth. ‘I regret it more than I can ever tell you, Molly.’
‘Do you?’ she whispered, her blood humming inside her veins at the feel of his lips on hers.
‘Yes. I hurt you and I never meant to do that. It’s just that I found it so hard to do what was right.’ He brushed her mouth with another sensual kiss. ‘I knew I should end our relationship but I kept putting it off, and there’s no excuse for that.’
‘Why did you keep putting it off?’ she asked, her breath coming in rapid little spurts so that it sounded as though she was having difficulty breathing, which she was. Being held in Sean’s arms like this, having him kiss her, was making her feel breathless... As well as a lot of other things.
Sean knew that he shouldn’t answer that question. Admitting that he had delayed ending their relationship because he couldn’t bear to part with her wouldn’t help either of them. It was all in the past and it should remain in the past too. And yet some tiny part of his brain was insisting that he told Molly the truth, that he should hold up his hands and confess why he’d had such problems letting her go. Surely he owed her that much at the very least?
‘Because I hated the thought of being without you.’ He rested his forehead against hers, not wanting to look into her eyes in case he weakened. ‘That time we spent together was one of the happiest times of my life and I wanted it to continue, even though I knew it couldn’t.’
‘Because of Claire?’
He heard the catch in her voice and hated to think that he might be causing her yet more pain. But it was two years since they’d parted: she’d had two years to get over him. The thought helped to steady him even if it didn’t come as the relief it should have been.
‘Yes. I made a vow after Claire died that I would remain true to her memory and I can’t break it, Molly, not for any reason or anyone.’
‘I understand, Sean. Really I do.’
She stepped back, deliberately setting some distance between them, and Sean had to stop himself hauling her back into his arms and telling her that he had changed his mind. He felt bereft without her in his arms, empty, incomplete. It took every atom of willpower he could muster not to say too much but he mustn’t mislead her. After the heat of the moment had passed then he would regret breaking his vow...
‘Thank you.’ His voice grated and he cleared his throat, unable to deal with all the conflicting emotions rioting around inside him. Did he really want to let Claire go and look to the future? Could he bear to do so when he might be consumed by guilt for ever? He had to be sure because he couldn’t play with Molly’s emotions, couldn’t lead her to believe that they had a future together when in all likelihood it wouldn’t amount to anything.
‘There’s nothing to thank me for.’ She gave a little shrug and he almost weakened when he realised how brave she was being. However, it would be wrong to allow this to go any further, so very wrong to risk hurting her all over again.
Sean’s heart was heavy as he said goodbye and made his way to the door. Molly saw him out although she didn’t wait to wave him off, not that he could blame her. She was probably glad to see the back of him after what he had told her. He stood in the road for a moment, sucking in great gulps of the frosty air. It should have been a relief to tell her about Claire and explain his reasons for breaking up with her but it wasn’t relief he felt. Not right now anyway. Maybe relief would come later but at the moment all he felt was a deep sense of sadness for what he could have had if things had been different.