Hailed by the same noisy clique of men she had served earlier, Molly walked over. They read her name off her identification badge and called her by it. One man made a crude comment about her breasts, while she went rigid as another closed an arm round her, trapping her in place.
‘Let go of me!’ Molly told the offender with icy contempt and annoyance. ‘I’m here to serve drinks-that’s all!’
‘What a crying waste that would be, little lady,’ the red-faced male imprisoning her lamented. Unconcerned by her angry reproach, he tossed a high-denomination bank note down on the tray. ‘Why don’t you come home with me later? Trust me, I could show you a really good time.’
‘No, thanks. Get your hands off me right now,’ Molly demanded.
‘Have you any idea how much I earned this year?’
‘I couldn’t care less and I don’t want the tip,’ Molly told him curtly, stuffing the note back into his hand and pulling free the instant his grip loosened. How dared he speak to her as if she were a hooker for hire and try to bribe her into doing his bidding? She walked away quickly to the accompaniment of a chorus of male laughter. Brian was watching her uneasily from the doorway and she went straight over to him to warn him that he needed to keep an eye on the rowdy group before they got completely out of hand.
‘I won’t stand for being touched or spoken to like that. I’m entitled to make a complaint when someone does that to me,’ Molly pointed out angrily.
Dismay at that threat sent the manager’s brows flying up below his hair. ‘Those blokes are only fooling around and trying to flirt with you. You’re a pretty girl and there aren’t many here. They’ve had too much to drink. I’m sure nothing offensive was intended.’
‘I disagree. They didn’t care and I found their abuse deeply offensive,’ Molly countered and stalked back to the bar, furious that her complaint was not being taken seriously. She was well aware that the manager was keen to avoid any unpleasantness that might endanger the chance of new business from any of the well-heeled guests present. But for the first time ever, Molly resented her lowly station in life which evidently made Brian feel that her complaint was of less importance than the comfort of the arrogant ignorant oiks who had insulted her.
Leandro drew in a slow deep breath of restraint. He had witnessed the whole scene and had almost intervened on her behalf with the drunks. He thought her boss should have protected her from such harassment. So her name was Molly-he had overheard the men. Wasn’t that a diminutive for Mary? And if it was, why the hell should it matter to him? he asked himself in exasperation. He didn’t like the feeling that he was off balance. Accompanied by his hostess, Krystal, Leandro allowed himself to be introduced to some of the other guests.
Lysander Metaxis was present without his wife whom, he readily explained, was close to giving birth to their third child. If he was looking for congratulations he didn’t get them. When children entered the conversation, Leandro had nothing to say and even less interest. But he did wonder if it was fair of him to suspect that the macho Greek tycoon was boasting about his virility.
There was nothing to distract Leandro from watching Molly as she approached the drunks who were signalling her for more libation. Tension was etched in her tight heart-shaped features and her reluctance to respond was clear. The heavily built blond man snaked out an arm to entrap her again and ran a coarse hand down over her shapely derrière, pausing to squeeze it. As an angry objection erupted from Molly Leandro was already striding forward.
‘Take your hands off her!’ Leandro commanded.
The drunk freed Molly and pushed her aside to take a swing at the Spaniard. Shaken that Leandro had come to her rescue, Molly was all too well aware of the greater danger of him being beaten up by the three drunks he had dared to confront. She sped forward to interpose herself between the men and forced her assailant to deflect his punch in an attempt to avoid hitting her. Leandro still took a blow across one temple that sent him crashing to the floor. The back of his head banged off the tiled floor and for an instant there was blackness and he knew nothing. Time seemed to move seamlessly on, however, for when his eyes opened again he was staring up into instantly recognisable vibrant green as the waitress crouched over him, her anxiety obvious. She was close enough for the lemony scent of her curling hair and creamy skin to flare his nostrils and awaken a powerful sexual response.
When Molly collided with Leandro’s honey dark gaze, it was as if the whole world ground to a halt and sent her spinning off into the unknown. Heat uncoiled in a lazy entangling loop in her pelvis and cut off her ability to breathe. Her body came alive in embarrassing places and throbbed as if a switch somewhere inside her had been flipped on.