SIT down, Leo,” Delia said. “You look cold.”
He unbuttoned his coat and sat. For a moment he sat looking at the fire, then his dark eyes moved to Delia.
“I have something to tell you.” His voice was low but clear. “I’m married Delia. I have a wife.”
“I know,” she said.
A look of surprise lit up his face.
“You know? But how? Ah!” He understood. “Miss Flynn.”
“Yes, but she didn’t tell me as gossip, Leo. She was concerned.”
“Yes, she’s a good girl. I certainly chose well when I chose her. If only I’d chosen well when I married. Delia, I want to tell you about me and Judith.”
The only sound in the room apart from Nesbo’s quiet, measured tones was the flurry of wind-driven rain against the windows and the occasional pop-popping of the gas fire as Delia listened, never taking her eyes off Nesbo’s face.
He told her everything, from first meeting Judith, to their marriage, their life together, to his walking away from her. He told her everything that had happened at his meeting with her yesterday.
“When I walked away from the house, when I heard the front door close behind me, I felt like a prisoner who had been suddenly set free. I was free.”
He took a deep breath. He looked at Delia.
“I’m free to speak.”
Her hands were clasped tightly on her lap. She felt as if she couldn’t move. He cleared his throat.
“You know I love you.”
“Do I?” she said weakly.
For a second he seemed annoyed, then he softened.
“Well, you should do.” He sighed. “Delia, I have loved you so much for so long.”
“Leo, you never told me,” she said softly. “You should have told me.”
“How could I?” he snapped. “Tell you that I had walked out on my wife? What could I have offered you?” He shook his head vehemently. “No! But I was near you every day. I could see you every day. I told myself I must be content with that. And then, of course, Max came along.”
“Oh, Leo,” Delia pleaded. “Max is a good, sweet man.”
Nesbo waved his hand in dismissal.
“I know. He’s a decent chap. I know that. It’s just that I was eaten up with jealousy. He is handsome, charming and free. Everything I am not.” He put his hand to his brow. “Jealousy is a dreadful, hateful thing and so painful. It stops you thinking straight.”
“Leo, I can’t believe that you had anything to do with the sawn-through rope,” she said.
He gave a little smile.
“Did you think it was me?”
“No, I didn’t. You wouldn’t do such a thing,” she said decisively.
“No, that was nothing to do with me. But I was jealous of Max, seeing him with the woman I love so much.”
“Leo, I must tell you,” Delia interrupted. “Max has asked me to marry him.”
Nesbo shook his head desperately.
“Delia, in a few months I’ll be a free man. I went to see a lawyer today. I can apply to the court to expedite the decree absolute, to give the decree at the actual divorce hearing. Judith won’t object. She’s anxious to marry her baker. In a couple of months it will all be over.” His dark eyes were bright as he looked at her. “Delia, I love you. Will you marry me?”
Even in the intensity of the moment, a silly thought flashed into Delia’s mind. You wait years for a proposal of marriage and then . . .