THE SOUND OF church bells ringing woke him. Sean lay in bed, feeling strangely at peace with himself. He and Molly had made love not once but twice before they had fallen asleep and he knew that he would store the memory of what had happened in his heart for ever. There had been passion, yes, but as well as that there had been such tenderness that he felt different. Making love with Molly, knowing that there was love in his heart as well as in hers, had been a life-changing experience. Now he knew what he had to do. Knew what he wanted to do. And it was a relief to be so sure when he had felt so ambivalent these past weeks. Rolling over, he stroked her cheek, wanting to tell her his decision. Molly had a right to know as this was going to affect her life as much as his.
‘Mmm, that feels nice,’ she murmured, snuggling against him. ‘Has anyone told you that you have magic fingers, Dr Fitzgerald?’
‘Nobody who matters,’ he replied, replacing his hand with his lips. He trailed a line of butterfly-soft kisses from her ear to her jaw and back again then laughed. ‘Come on, sleepy-head, wake up. It’s Christmas Day and it’s time to rise and shine.’
‘Why? Has Santa been?’ she retorted, wriggling even closer to him. She chuckled wickedly when she felt his very predictable response to her nearness. ‘Maybe that’s him knocking at the door right now. I wonder if he has a present for me.’
After a comment like that it was inevitable what would happen. Sean didn’t need a second invitation as he gathered her into his arms and kissed her soundly. Their lovemaking was just as fulfilling and as magical this time too and he sighed as he rolled onto his side and looked at her with wonderment.
‘How do you make me feel like this, Molly? Have you developed some kind of special powers that I never knew about before?’
‘Yes.’ She kissed him on the lips, her eyes gentle as she stared at him. ‘It’s the power of love. It makes everything magical.’
‘Oh, sweetheart!’ He kissed her this time, feeling desire roaring through him once more. It shouldn’t have been possible after what had just happened but they made love again. They were both exhausted when they broke apart. Sean flopped onto his back and groaned.
‘My heaven, woman, you’re insatiable. You’ve worn me out!’
‘Are you complaining?’ she asked cheekily, laughing at him.
‘Certainly not!’ He grinned back at her. ‘Although I may need a breather before you have your wicked way with me yet again.’
‘Hmph. Some folk are never happy. It’s a good job it’s Christmas and the season of goodwill is all I can say.’ She tossed back the quilt and got out of bed. ‘I shall leave you to recover your strength while I make us some breakfast.’
‘I could give it a miss,’ Sean offered, grabbing hold of her hand as she went to walk past him. He chuckled because the sight of her naked body seemed to be doing wonders for his flagging libido. ‘I may not be quite as exhausted as I thought.’
‘Too late, stud.’ She wriggled out of his grasp and picked up her dressing gown from the back of the chair. ‘The only thing you’re getting at this precise moment is coffee!’
‘Spoilsport,’ Sean declared as she swished out of the door with her nose in the air.
He smiled to himself as he sank back against the pillows. It felt marvellous to indulge in this kind of banter and feel so at ease. He had always felt a bit tense when they had been together before, aware that he shouldn’t be encouraging any real sense of closeness, but it was different now. He and Molly could relax and enjoy being together without him constantly worrying that he was leading her on. It made it all the more imperative that he carried out that decision he had made.
Sean took a deep breath as he tossed back the quilt, knowing how hard it was going to be, not only for him but for Claire’s parents as well. However, although he hated the thought of upsetting them, the fact was that he couldn’t have Molly in his life until he had drawn a line under the past.
* * *
Molly put the finishing touches to the breakfast tray and nodded in satisfaction. Freshly squeezed orange juice, eggs Benedict and coffee. There was a platter of fresh fruit as well, although she wasn’t sure if it would get eaten or not. As she recalled, breakfast in bed with Sean didn’t necessarily involve eating.
Heat rushed through her as she picked up the tray and carried it along the hall. Making love with Sean had been everything she could have wished for. He was both a tender and a passionate lover and she loved how he made her feel. That he enjoyed making love to her wasn’t in any doubt but was it enough to tip the scales her way? Maybe he had told her that he loved her but could he leave the past behind? Molly hoped so with every fibre of her being but, as she made her way upstairs, she could feel a sense of dread gathering in the pit of her stomach. A happy-ever-after wasn’t guaranteed.