‘But my son and my daughter, who will naturally be brought up here in their family home.’ Luc was very still, the long, lean flow of his powerful body perfectly poised by the superb fireplace.
Taken aback by that confident statement, Star dropped dead and stared. ‘What are you talking about?’
His brilliant dark eyes were steady as a rock in his lean strong face. ‘I think you should sit down and have some coffee. All this frantic pacing up and down must be making you dizzy—’
‘Look, I’m not dizzy!’ Star folded her arms tight. ‘I don’t want to sit down either.’
‘And I don’t want to argue with you, but if you force the issue, you’ll find yourself on a losing streak,’ Luc warned.
Her eyes fired with quick resentful anger. ‘Will I indeed? Five minutes after finding out you’re a father, you start making outrageous statements and trying to lay down the law.’
‘And I should add that the law—French family law, at least—will come down on my side,’ Luc drawled with cool exactitude.
Goosebumps rising on her bare arms, Star went rigid. ‘What are you trying to say?’
‘That a description of the home environment in which you were keeping my children in England would be very much in my favour in a French court.’
Star turned pale. ‘You’re threatening me…’
‘You’re shocked,’ Luc noted. ‘Why? Sadly, the twins are more entitled to tender treatment right now than you are, mon ange.’
‘You are threatening me…’ Shaken disbelief was splintering through Star.
‘You should know where you stand. Between a rock and a hard place,’ Luc told her helpfully, lest she be too slow to have absorbed that message. ‘No way are you removing my children from beneath this roof at the end of the summer and taking them back to England with you!’
‘I can stop you. I would dislike the means I would have to utilise, but I would do it,’ Luc countered levelly. ‘You’ve made some unwise decisions since our children were born—’
‘Like what?’ Star slammed back at him ungrammatically, thrown into a greater panic by every word he voiced with such intimidating calm.
‘In spite of the fact that you were existing below the poverty line, you didn’t inform me of their birth nor did you ask for my financial support. Now even I am aware of the accepted authority which states that the needs of the child should always come first.’ Luc sent her a winging glance of reproof. ‘In attempting to raise our children in an undesirable environment, while also denying me my rights as a father, you failed to behave like a mature and responsible parent.’
Star’s soft lips fell open in appalled incredulity at that judgement.
Luc screened his penetrating gaze and spread his lean hands in a wry, dismissive gesture. ‘Now, I don’t believe it would be fair to judge the teenager you were at the time of their birth against that particular yardstick. But you must accept that in any custody dispute you will be compared to me, and my worst enemy couldn’t label me as either immature or irresponsible.’
It was a terrifyingly impressive conclusion. By the time Luc had finished speaking, he had succeeded in seriously scaring Star. A custody dispute in which what she could offer their children would be measured against what Luc could offer? Luc, with several centuries of solid family respectability behind him and every one of his gloomy ancestors born in wedlock. Luc, with his immense wealth and with his opinions on global financial problems sought by the highest placed politicians in Europe. Star’s blood simply ran cold.
‘I just don’t understand any of this…’ Star was fighting to keep a grip on her turbulent emotions. ‘The instant you find out that the twins are yours, you immediately start threatening to take them from me—’
‘No, that’s not either my wish or my intention. But, ironically, it is exactly what you did to me before I came downstairs again,’ Luc drawled very quietly. ‘Were you expecting me to jump for joy when you announced that you were already homesick and you talked about returning to England?’